Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Exiles (Exils)

Tony Gatlif (2004)

France and Japan

Genre: Road Movie

Paris, the present. French Arab Zano suggests to the girl sharing his bed, Naïma, that they travel to Algeria. Although the music-obsessed pair are all but strangers, she agrees. They catch a train to Seville, but, travelling without tieckets, are forced off before reaching the city. Continuing on foot, Zano and Naïma discuss their Algerian ancestries: form him an anti-coloniast grandfather; for her a father who refused to acknowledge his heritage. They meet Habib and Leila, young Algerian siblings, making their way to Paris. 

Zano and Naïma reach Seville. At a flamenco bar, Naïma disappears with another man. The next day, she and Zano squabble bitterly on a tain out of the city. In an unnamed Spanish port, they reconcile, then encounter Habib and Leila once more, who give the couple a note to take to Algiers asking their family to put them up. Zano and Naïma travel as stowaways on a ferrry to North Africa, but the boat goes to Morocco not Algeria. They land in Morocco; an aborted bus journey obliges them to cross a section of desert on foot, befroe another train takes them to Algiers. 

Although they are taken in by Habib and Leila's family, both Zano and Naïma feel alienated from the city, with Naïma abused for not wearing a headscarf. Zano finds his grandfather's house, and breaks down when people living in it hand him mementoes of his family's time there. That night, Naïma takes part in a Sufi musical ritual in which she enters a trance-like state. the next day, the pari visit the grave of Zano's grandfather. They leave smiling. (Synopsis from Sight & Sound, 2, 2004) 

The film by Algerian émigré director Tony Gatlif provides interesting comparisons with Mehdi Charef's Keltoum's Daughter in so far as both films depict home-seeking journeys that result in a sense of alienation. In Algeria, the protagonists are perceived as French rather than Algerians and, when Naïma is asked why she does not speak Arabic, she replies that nobody taught her. 

The film engages with the theme of exile and migration in multiple ways: through language, the significant importance assigned to music, and through the  itineraries of the protagonists, which are presented to go against the flow of a large number of North Africans who are depicted heading for Europe. 

Posted by Daniela Berghahn on 07 Jun 2006 •





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