The algerian civil war lasted for more than a decade ending in 2002 with the disappearance of the GIA armed islamic group who along with other insurgent forces battled a military backed government that fought to keep the islamists out of power. It was a long brutual conflict that saw anywhere between 50,000 and 200,000 victims including several civilian massacress perpetuated by the insugents and some believe the army itself. The result was a nation torn in half with many algerians fleeing overseas while others were left behind to pick up the pieces once the war ended.
Such is the backdrop for writer director sofia djama debut feature the blessed les bienheureux which follows a handful of characters over a 24 hour period in the capital of algiers. Set back in 2008 when the country wounds were still healing the movie offers a grim if illuminating portrait of a place and people caught in perpetual limbo between the trauma of the past the oppression of the present and the dashed hopes of the futures. There seems to be little solace for those algerians who decided to stay put instead of expatriating to france or elsewhere and the family at the center of djamas movie is ultimately left wondering if it was worth holding on for so long.
As bleak as that sounds the blessed is also a warm intimately hewn drama marked by graceful turns from leads sami boujila omar killed me and nadia kaci the latter also starred in the cannes entry until the birds return which tracked similar themes and a promising cast of young actors who portray a budding generation caught between the thirst for freedom and the suspicion of anything western. After premiering in venice where is scooped up a few awards the movie was recently released to critical acclaim in france and could find more exposure abroad.
Set over one very day and night the story is centered on a couple gynecologist samir bouajila and college professor amal kaci hoping to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary with a night out on the town. While they visit friends and look for a place to grab dinner their teenage son fahim amine lansari spends time with buds reda adam bessa and feriel lyna khoudri doing the things that kids anywhere do being bored listening to music smoking pot and trying to have some fun in a city that looks like its still under wartime curfew.
Initally its tough to see where djama is going with her rather loose and plotless narrative but as the night drags on it becomes increasingly clear how samir and his family are caught in the suffocating grip of postwar algeran society. Harassed by corrupt cops and moralizing imams or bickering with friends living in exile the clean is repeatedly confronted by their decision to stay in a country that no longer tolerates freethingking intellectuals or teenagers who just wantto have a little fun.
The Blessed A handful of characters living In Algiers In The wake Of a civil War,