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As Alia, the daughter of a beautiful servant Khedija, grows up in the Kings Palace at the end of the French colonial rule in Tunisia, she realizes the sexual favours required of her mother and other servants. Written by
The best film ever made in the Arab World really isn't a superlative that would be difficult to attain, but this film is really a masterwork.
Aliya a singer with an superb voice but little success is invited to the palace where she spent her childhood as the daughter of a servant. She never really got to know who her father was, that she has been invited back to the palace after the head of the household, member of the Turkish ruling family of pre-independence Tunisia has died is no accident.
Back in the palace all her childhood memories come back to Alia. She remembers her mother being the concubine of the deceased. His wife was barren, and she becomes sure that she is his daughter.
She also remembers how her love for music helped her to gain prestige in the palace. But the songs she sang were not just entertainment. The melodies of Umm Kulthum were broadcasted by Radio Cairo to spread the message of Arab awakening and the longing for independence. Albeit its political aspects also the ruling family, a puppet on the strings of the French, enjoys the music. But for the masses the songs also become a symbol for the longing for freedom. falls in love with one student who is an independence activist. He is hiding in the palace where his aunt is another servant. He promises her a brilliant future but already at the beginning of the film we are told that the promise was not to be kept.
The film is a ingenious ridiculization of political rhetoric and seldom ever has Oriental music bee integrated in a film so brilliantly (except perhaps Ray's Jalsaghar). You will enjoy it even if Arab music doesn't mean anything to you.
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