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The Secret of the Grain (2007)

La graine et le mulet (original title)
Unrated | | Drama | 12 December 2007 (France)
At the port of Sète, Mr. Slimani, a tired 60-year-old, drags himself toward a shipyard job that has become more and more difficult to cope with as the years go by. He is a divorced father ... See full summary »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Habib Boufares ...
Slimane Beiji
Farida Benkhetache ...
Abdelhamid Aktouche ...
Bouraouïa Marzouk ...
Cyril Favre ...
Leila D'Issernio ...
Abelkader Djeloulli ...
Bruno Lochet ...
Sami Zitouni ...
Mohamed Benabdeslem ...
Hatika Karaoui ...


At the port of Sète, Mr. Slimani, a tired 60-year-old, drags himself toward a shipyard job that has become more and more difficult to cope with as the years go by. He is a divorced father who forces himself to stay close to his family despite the schisms and tensions that are easily sparked off and that financial difficulties make even more intense. He is going through a delicate period in his life and, recently, everything seems to make him feel useless: a failure. He wants to escape from it all and set up his own restaurant. However, it appears to be an unreachable dream given his meager, irregular salary that is not anywhere near enough to supply what he needs to realize his ambition. But he can still dream and talk about it with his family in particular. A family that gradually gives its support to this project, which comes to symbolize the means to a better life. Thanks to its ingeniousness and hard work, this dream soon becomes a reality...or almost.... Written by Venice Film Festival

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It takes will, courage and determination to realise a dream. But most of all it takes family See more »




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Release Date:

12 December 2007 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Secret of the Grain  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$9,864 (USA) (2 January 2009)


$86,356 (USA) (27 February 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Shooting was supposed to start in the summer of 2005 but one of the leading actors was sick, which resulted in a major delay. Thus, filming actually started on 5 September 2005 and was still running by 16 January 2006. The set was on a boat in the port of Sète for at least six weeks from October to December 2006. Outside temperatures were very low, as opposed to what they should have been if schedule could have been held. This led the production to set up large tents near the boat with heating systems for the actors and extras to remain comfortable between takes. See more »


Julia: [talking to Slimane about her husband] Is that a family man ?
Serguei: Never there for his kid.
See more »


References Finding Nemo (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

A rich, varied, multi-layered family drama
1 February 2009 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Tunisian born French director Abdellatif Kechiche's third feature Secret of the Grain is dedicated to his father whose silence after a long day of hard work reflects the demeanor of the film's lead protagonist, Slimane Beiji (Habib Boufares), a Tunisian immigrant who has been laid off from his job in the shipyards after thirty five years. Winner of best picture, director, screen play and actress awards at the 2008 Cesar Awards, the film is not a Loach-type work of social consciousness but a rich, varied, multi-layered family drama that is universal in its appeal. Although the English title of the film suggests there is some secret held by the grain, the only secret in Secret of the Grain is how Kechiche manages to seamlessly weld together into a cohesive whole such disparate elements as the traditions of great cooking, the problems immigrants confront when dealing with white authority, and the desire to leave a legacy to your children.

Set in the French coastal village of Séte on the Mediterranean, the grain in the title refers to couscous, a diet staple of Tunisian immigrants and a dish that Slimane hopes to use to turn a dilapidated old boat into a profitable restaurant with his ex-wife Souad (Bouraouia Marzouk) doing the cooking. Shot with a hand-held camera that bobs and weaves through long takes of eating, animated dinner conversations, and emotional family disputes, the 151-minute Secret of the Grain has the authenticity you would expect if you accidentally stumbled into a Greek restaurant where an animated family dinner was taking place. In a scene at one of the two family dinners that take up half of the film, the length and variety of facial close-ups of people chewing, laughing, and talking in multi-cultural accents is staggering.

The centerpiece of the film is Slimane and his clan consisting of his two sons, five daughters, grandchildren, his ex-wife Souad, his lover Latifa (Hatika Karaoui), and her fiery twenty-year-old daughter Rym (Hafsia Herzi) who adores Slimane and whose energy and business acumen is the catalyst for his risky venture. Slimane, a man of sixty-one whose periods of silence stand in sharp contrast to the loquaciousness of his family, lives in a modest room in a weather-beaten hotel run by Latifa. A generous man, Slimane collects fish from his fisherman friends and delivers them each week to Souad, his older daughter Karima (Faridah Benkhetache); and Latifa.

The first hour delves into mundane family matters. When Slimane visits his eldest daughter Karima (Farida Benkhetache) to deliver some fish, Karima's anger at her three year-old daughter who refuses the potty dominates the conversation which continues for almost ten minutes interspersed with comments about the decline of the shipping industry. Other extended domestic scenes revolve around the escapades of Slimane's irresponsible son Majid (Sami Zitouni) whose extra-marital affairs threaten to drive his Russian wife Julia (Alice Houri) out of the family. The idea of starting a restaurant at age sixty-one raises much skepticism in the community and Slimane's plans are considered too thin and too unsupported by economic reality by the bank he asks for a loan.

To prove the worth of his idea, however, Slimane invites one hundred city officials, potential investors, friends and family to the boat that he, Rym, and his son Riadh (Mohamed Benabdeslem) painstakingly renovated. The opening night turns out to be an astonishing tour de force that combines life-affirming exuberance, sensual music and belly dancing, and an avoidable crisis that leads to heightened family tension and a suspenseful final half hour. Kechiche, a former movie and TV actor, has assembled an outstanding ensemble cast with first rate performances, especially from Boufares and Herzi. Though the film has many discussions about food, it is not a feel-good "food movie" but a complex, deeply intense narrative that elevates one family's personal struggles into a drama of epic scope.

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