With a limited budget and a cast of virtual unknowns, French-Algerian director Merzak Allouache (SALUT COUSIN! BAB EL-OUED CITY) achieves what Hollywood never quite gets right: a tense and timely thriller that also serves as a political and a moral allegory. Having received word that her lover, Rachid, has disappeared somewhere in the dangerous Algerian countryside, French-born law student Yasmine Hattou (Marie Brahimi) prepares to leave Paris and go in search of his missing lover. Rachid returned to his homeland months earlier, and was immediately drafted into the Algerian army; then, during his first mission, his unit was attacked by one of the many bands of marauding terrorists who've been terrorizing the countryside. Most of the soldiers were slaughtered on the spot, and even though Rachid and another soldier were never found, the army fears the worst. Nevertheless, Yasmine insists on seeing for herself. Although born to Algerian parents, Yasmine has never stepped foot on Algerian soil, and even though she's readied herself for the journey as best she can Yasmine even dons the head-covering hidjab before she boards the plane in Paris nothing can fully prepare her for the reality of Algeria, or the violence that now plagues its countryside. After visiting her uncle's family in the bustling, balmy capital city of Algiers, Yasmine visits Rachid's commanding officer, who, even though he's reluctant to give her many details of his disappearance, points her in the right direction. Rachid's unit was attacked near the remote village Bordj Khriss, a terrain notoriously controlled by Muslim extremists. So begins Yasmine's terrifying journey into the heart of darkness that will only end with a surprising betrayal that hammers home just how pervasive the violence in Algeria has become, and how its effects have deformed the consciences of many of its people. Yasmine's plight barrels ahead with all the momentum of freight train, but the real horror lies in the details, in the air of general fear an anxiety that hangs heavy throughout: the strangers who eavesdrop on Yasmine's conversations; the armed officers who suddenly arrest harmless seeming commuters. Allouache's vision of his homeland has grown increasingly dark. As Yasmine's cousin, a feminist activist who's grown tired fighting the good fight in face of indifference, selfishness and rampant consumerism, succinctly puts it, "Amnesia is the latest rage." Besides, "Algeria has already been saved. Or so they tell us."
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: NR
- Review: With a limited budget and a cast of virtual unknowns, French-Algerian director Merzak Allouache (SALUT COUSIN! BAB EL-OUED CITY) achieves what Hollywood never quite gets right: a tense and timely thriller that also serves as a political and a moral allegor… (more)