As I Open My Eyes (À peine j'ouvre les yeux)
Genre: Drama, Music
Year Released: 2015
Runtime: 1h 42m
Director(s): Leyla Bouzid
Writer(s): Leyla Bouzid, Marie-Sophie Chambon
Cast: Baya Medhaffar, Ghalia Benali, Montassar Ayari
Language: Arabic, French w/English subtitles
Where To Watch: Available to view here OVID.tv
RAVING REVIEW: AS I OPEN MY EYES is a stunning work of art that showcases the power of filmmaking to convey the complexities of a moment. Winning critical acclaim at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, this debut feature by Leyla Bouzid is a tour-de-force that illuminates the tumultuous landscape of Tunisia in the lead-up to the Jasmine Revolution of 2010. The film explores the atmosphere of fear and oppression under the rule of the former President, where anyone perceived as a threat was intimidated.
At the center of the story is Farah, a young woman who defies the norms of society as a medical student and musician in a rebellious rock band. With a captivating smile and hypnotic movements, Baya Medhaffar's portrayal of Farah brings energy and life to the screen. The film skillfully intertwines the political with the personal, providing a feminist perspective on the challenges faced by women in Tunisia and the Arab world. It has to be mentioned that the singing in the film is beyond powerful; you can feel it in your soul.
Ghalia Benali's portrayal of Farah's mother, Hayet, is a masterclass in acting. Her emotionally charged performance as a mother searching for her daughter is a testament to the universal love and fear of parenthood. The cinematography captures the vibrant energy of Farah's performances. It contrasts it with the darker side of her reality, offering a glimpse into the not-often-seen side of the city.
AS I OPEN MY EYES is a powerful and nuanced reflection on the intergenerational struggles faced by women in Tunisia and the Arab world. The film's climax is heart-wrenching and leaves the audience to imagine Farah's future in the aftermath of the political turmoil. Bouzid's direction and the performances of Medhaffar and Benali are outstanding.
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[photo courtesy of KINO LORBER/SHELLAC]