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EXILES

Director: TONY GATLIF

FRANCE| 2004. SUBTITLED. COLOUR. DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO. 104 MIN.


WITH EXILES, ALGERIAN-FRENCH DIRECTOR TONY GATLIF BRAIDS TOGETHER THEMES THAT HAVE BEEN THREADED IN AND OUT OF HIS 14 FILMS INTO ONE STURDY HAMMOCK. ARGUABLY THE FILM-MAKER’S MOST PERSONAL WORK IN YEARS, EXILES FOLLOWS A PAIR OF PARISIAN SLACKERS FROM FRANCE TO THE DIRECTOR’S BIRTHPLACE, ALGIERS.
Zano (a charismatic Romain Duris) and Naima (Lubna Azabal) are first introduced buck naked in a bedroom in Paris rocking to a strong, Patti Smith-meets-techno-style opening track. The two hardly seem to know each other but decide to travel to Algeria by train, bus and foot. Zano’s descended from French colonials expelled from the North African country in 1962, while Naima’s the daughter of Algerian Arabs. He claims ‘music is my religion,’ while she is a standard-issue Gatlif sexpot with a vague trauma to overcome. Neither speaks Arabic or really has a clue as to what they’re in for, but they’re hot for each other and manage to take plenty of rest breaks for al fresco shags along the way.
Overall, the film works well as a road movie, swinging and easy for the most part but gaining a certain gravitas in its later stretches. Gatlif’s take on Algerian culture is far less romanticised than one would expect given his story’s trajectory. He displays a sincere affection for both the central and peripheral characters and it looks as if a good time is being had by all. Collaborating with composer Delphine Mantoulet, Gatlif mixes electronic instruments and techno beats with more traditional ethnic tunes to create his most varied and funkiest sounding score in years.

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