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Tuesday, April 2

La Source des Femmes

It is rare for men to acknowledge a woman's strength, let alone grant her the opportunity to get empowered. And though power is the best aphrodisiac and men feel instantly drawn to the intoxicating scent of a woman's confidence, most of them would never take an intelligent, outspoken wife. Those who do, fear the public obloquy and cowardly exploit the wife's ego and their brethren's appreciation.

Such is the case of Sami, the husband of Leila (Leila Bekhti), who supports his wife within the boundaries of their intimacy when she refuses to carry water from a remote spring to the village but who cannot openly take her side. Sami is the intellectual of a Maghreb village, married to an outsider, Leila, in the eyes of the other inhabitants, but especially in the eyes of his own mother. Leila has a mind of her own and although she loves and respects her husband, is tired of seeing so many women having miscarriages under the weight of the water buckets. So she voices her discontent and raises an army of brave, tough women who go to any length - including depriving their husbands of physical pleasure- to have their rights and identity recognised. And they sing, dance, cry, suffer the wrath and abuse of their husbands just to make themselves heard. The arrival of a journalist - an old flame of Leila's- shakes the relationship with her husband but it is in Sami that she finds the strength and understanding she needs. And this intelligent, beautiful handful of women prevails over the narrow-minded, religious pack of frustrated husbands: water is brought to their village and order seems to be restored. However, one can easily sense the fear lurking in the husbands' minds, now that the women have gained an unprecedented power.

This movie is a melting pot of songs, dances, religious beliefs, colourful clothes and the eternal fight for personal freedom. It is a contemporary story, set in an old-fashioned background, in a society that deepens the gap between modernism and traditional values and customs. Women of the Western world complain about glass ceiling barriers, not only in their professional but also personal life, whereas the women of the Islamic world have not yet earned their natural right to say "no" to another person. Nevertheless, we all have the same emotions and urges, expectations and needs and what better voice to utter them than Radu Mihaileanu's? He is a master of subtlety, a sensitive painter of the feminine mistime and he enriches his female characters with a good deal of humour and sensuality. But then again, if you have already seen Train de Vie or Le concert, you will gladly recognise his personal manner of rendering the harsh truths in a humorous manner.

Leila Bekhti is not only a beautiful woman, but also a remarkable actress, who naturally plays both the card of belligerent leader and that of a sensual wife. She is full of life and of promise, she takes responsibility for her past actions and proves to be a fighter for her beliefs, as well as for her marital bliss. It is a powerful performance of a woman who can be an inspiration to the others but whose frailty is never a drawback. It is refreshing to find a supportive voice in the director's approach to this controversial issue of egalitarianism and marvel at the discovery of a male director whose creation favours strong, independent feminine minds. La Source des Femmes is a movie about self-discovery and perseverance, about hope and the hidden beauty of small gestures and big dreams.