6 user 14 critic

The Silences of the Palace (1994)

Samt El Qusur (original title)
As she grows up, Alia (the daughter of housemaid Khedija) learns the secrets of the peaceful palace where she and her mother live.


Moufida Tlatli
7 wins. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Hind Sabri ... Alia / Young (as Hend Sabri)
Ghalya Lacroix Ghalya Lacroix ... Alia / singer (as Ghalia Lacroix)
Nejia Ouerghi Nejia Ouerghi ... Khalti Hadda (as Najia Ouerghi)
Amel Hedhili Amel Hedhili ... Khedija / Alia's mother
Kamel Fazaa Kamel Fazaa ... Sid' Ali / prince
Sabah Bouzouita Sabah Bouzouita ... Schema / serrvant
Sonia Meddeb Sonia Meddeb ... Jneina / Sid' Ali's wife
Hélène Catzaras Hélène Catzaras ... Fella / serrvant
Fatma Ben Saïdane Fatma Ben Saïdane ... Mroubia
Michket Krifa Michket Krifa ... Memia
Hichem Rostom Hichem Rostom ... Si Bechir / prince
Kamel Touati Kamel Touati ... Houssine / male servant
Zahira Ben Ammar Zahira Ben Ammar ... Habiba / serrvant
Sami Bouajila ... Lofti / Alia's lover
Hatem Berrabeh Hatem Berrabeh ... Salim / Sid' Ali's son


Set in 1950s Tunisia, a 25-year-old woman, Alia, returns to her place of birth-a prince's palace in which her mother, Khedija, worked as a house servant and mistress of prince Sid' Ali. She had fled the palace ten years earlier, at which time she spent burying tortured memories of her childhood. In her visit to pay respects for the death of the prince, she wanders through the largely abandoned palace where she is confronted by these memories represented as detailed flashbacks of her childhood. She begins to piece together a narrative about her mother's sexuality and sexual exploitation in a space ordered by gender and class difference, and is re-awakened to her persistent questioning about her father's identity. As she negotiates her past, she also deals with her current relationship to her lover, Lotfi, who has asked her to have another abortion. Her development throughout the film contrasts her awakening to a past of sexual and social servitude which many of the female servants ...

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Featured in Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema (2018) See more »

User Reviews

Best film ever made in the Arab World
13 December 1999 | by maerteSee all my reviews

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.

16 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 6 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.



Tunisia | France


Arabic | French

Release Date:

7 September 1994 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Samt el Koussour See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed