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aka - Exiles
France 2004
Directed by
Tony Gatlif
103 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars


Synopsis: Zano (Romain Duris) and Naima (Lubna Azabal) are young lovers who live in Paris. Both are children of parents who fled Algeria years before,and so they decide to travel back, via Spain, to the land of their roots.

Tony Gatlif is known for making films about marginalised people, especially gypsies. Some of his previous films have been stand-outs, mainly because of their irresistible music and the sense of joy and sadness in their characters' lives. From his breakout 1993 documentary Latcho Drom with its exploration of gipsy music to his previous film, 2002's Swing, Gatlif has imbued his musicological travelogues with a more strongly defined narrative form.

Following this tendency Exils charts the stormy relationship between Zano and Naima opening in Paris where we hear Zano listening to techno rhythms before taking us to a flamenco bar in Seville.The couple then travel by train, bus, or foot as circumstances and their finances permit them, to Algeria, the land of Gatlif's childhood with various musical interludes along the way as Gatlif convincingly depicts the ups-and-downs of the young couple.

The highlight of the film involves a Sufi ceremony in which the participants attain a ritual trance brought on by frenetic percussive rhythms. In accordance with Gatlif's autobigraphical interests the emphasis of the latter part i of the film is on the couple Arabic roots and identity.

In the leads Duris, a kind of French Johnny Depp, with his pork pie hat perched on his raven locks is endearingly appealing whilst Lubna Azabal exudes sensuality as his free-spirited girlfriend. One unforgettable scene has Naima and Zano picking nectarines then sliding into a fruity sexual engagement. The camera work here is glorious, as it is in many other scenes, especially the abovementioned Sufi dance.

Whilst Exils is in some sense a road movie, with fun, frivolity and tears along the way, it has another level of resonance insofar as its two protagonists are on a voyage of discovery, going against the tide of Algerians who leave their homeland and heritage to find a new life in Europe.




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