I first heard about the film The Source via a Mark Kermode film review. Put simply, it is a story set in a remote North African village (the country is not named in the film). The village depends on income from visiting tourists and the there is little work for men there, unless they move to the city. This poverty also means that the village does not have a central water supply. Instead, they rely on a water source atop a steep hill, the fetching of which is seen solely as women’s work, despite the fact that women have injured themselves and suffered miscarriages due to having to carry such heavy burdens. After yet another women miscarries, Leila, newly married and newly literate, suggests that they take action to make the men fetch the water – to go on a “love strike,” withholding sexual relations until the men agree to fetch the water, or better still, persuade the government to connect the village.
The Source manages to tackle the story with great of wit and humour, while, as Kermode says, not shying away from the negative reactions some men have towards the love strike. What helps is having well-rounded characters, female and male, whose actions the plot allows you to understand, even if you don’t always sympathise with them; while it would be easy to have the men as lazy, two dimensional chauvinists, they are instead given time to speak and provide an insight into their behaviour. Likewise, the film shows religion as being both a tool of oppression, with the men suggesting taking other wives to punish the women; and liberation, with the women turning to the Qur’an to put their case forward. Tradition, also, is shown as being both a source of bonding and entertainment, in the singing the women do together, as well curtailing female freedom, with widespread female illiteracy due to not educating women. In a cinematic world that tends to either have Islam the marvellous or Islam the terrible and Muslim women as either oppressed victims or saintly angels of the homestead, it is incredibly refreshing to see both sides interacting in a manner that many Muslim women watching will be able to relate to.
The film is impressive to look at – shots are wonderfully composed without ever looking contrived and the singing featured throughout the film manages to be beautiful and often very funny. Also worth mentioning is that it brings together several actresses from other acclaimed films: the main actress, Leila Bekhti, starred in A Prophet, Hafsia Herzi in The Secret of the Grain, and Hiam Abbass is probably best known for her roles in The Visitor and Lemon Tree. However, it is Algerian legend Biyouna who steals the show as the redoubtable Madame Rifle.
Looking at other reviews and gnashing my teeth at the point missing, the main complaints seem to be an uneven tone and over-long running time. While the film certainly does not rush to a conclusion, I found I was so enjoying being with the characters, as it were, that I didn’t find myself getting bored. As for tone, life itself is hardly even in tone, so to demand that a film rooted in realism sticks to either comedy or drama seems rather churlish. It would also appear that any review of an Arab film will now have to contain some kind of reference – the more pun-ish the better – to the Arab Spring .
The Source really is rewarding viewing and I highly recommend seeing it.
This is my last post as a regular MMW contributor. I’m starting a Masters in Autumn, and that + job + child = not much time for skewering the regular nonsense the media writes about Muslim women, as well the more enjoyable task of shining a light on Muslim women’s contributions to the media. I’ve found that eye-rolling is much more fun in company and I would like to thank my fellow contributors and any commenters for their companionship in this. Most of all, I like to thank Fatemeh firstly for inventing MMW and also, for her and Krista’s patience and super editing skills.
I do hope to write the occasional guest post, so this is not a goodbye, more I’ll see you later, insha Allah.
May Allah shower you with blessings and fill your heart with light,