Le Grand voyage

Director: Ismaël Ferroukhi

France-Morocco| 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 108 min.

Writer-director Ismaël Ferroukhi proves his accomplished storytelling skill with Le Grand voyage, a road movie about a Moroccan father and son who drive from their home in a French suburb to Mecca, on the pilgrimage that is one of the pillars of Islam—the hajj. The journey also marks a cultural coming of age for Reda (Nicolas Cazale); for his father (Mohamed Majid) it brings the realisation that he and his son may have more in common than they imagine. They start out as two most unlikely co-travellers, with generational differences evident in their regard for tradition and life’s priorities and even in their use of language. Reda has little respect for the illiterate older man, who has to assert his authority early on in the voyage—the mobile phone is one of the first encumbrances to be left behind.
The importance of their journey is gradually revealed as father and son are isolated and forced to talk. Reda learns why they are driving—instead of flying—across seven countries to Mecca and comes to understand that how he conducts himself during the journey is an important part of the value of the pilgrimage.
Several unwanted passengers—among them a goat—attach themselves to the pair, adding humour and momentum to the journey. The ultimate spiritual achievement of the hajj becomes a metaphor for their bond, as its purpose both as a life-changing event and a personal devotion parallels the burgeoning communication between father and son. Like any true pilgrimage, Le Grand voyage‘ leaves an indelible impression on the hearts and minds of its participants.

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