In 1962, change comes to a Tunisian village on the edge of the Sahara. An entrepreneur sets up a salt mine, hiring village men. When he pays only half the wages agreed upon, they sit down in a field of rocks. The boss calls the army, who encircle the strikers. The women watch, sacrifice a sheep, pray, ululate. During the second night, a young woman hides the bucket and rope of the town's well to keep water from the army. The strike galvanizes her: she's learning to read and has studied a city woman who visits the village. Now, as she removes her traditional dress and rejects a ritual to cast out her new rebellious spirit, will she gain independence as did Tunisia and the strikers? Written by
An unusual, haunting film, made in 1970 about a labor revolt in a tiny, primitive Tunisian town in the early 1960s. Slow, deliberate, with almost no dialogue at all (I don't speak French and saw a version without subtitles or narration, and felt I missed nothing) it feels much more like a beautifully photographed documentary than a narrative film. The 'plot' doesn't even start to develop until more than halfway through the film.
The first half simply gives us an overview of how life in the village works through images and sounds. And even when the face off does occur, it is presented in muted, slow-moving visual strokes. Faces, and body language tell the tale as the French bring in troops to stare down the quietly dignified striking workers.
A film that acknowledges there are gains that come with progress (education is clearly noted as a plus by the film), but at a high cost in terms of exploitation of the majority, and the loss of a simple and honest way of life, as generations worked the earth while living in comparative harmony with it and each other.
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