135 minutes, France-Belgium-Italy, 2011, Subtitled, Colour, D-Cinema

The term ‘Arab spring’ acquires a rather different resonance in this warm-hearted character comedy about the women of a rural North African village who are determined to bring running water to their community.

They’ve always had to trudge up the mountain to bring back pails of water from the local spring, back-breaking work which their menfolk studiously eschew. As the rest of the country embraces modernity, it should be their turn, but nothing will happen unless they force the men to make a move.

The solution? A sex strike until they get their way! Director Radu Mihaileanu uses this raucous central idea to craft a movie blending entertainment and serious issues, and he’s served well by charismatic performers including Leïla Bekhti as the most progressive young woman, and the amazing Biyouna as imposing Mother Rifle.

The film’s astute enough to voice a broad spectrum of opinion, but sunny optimism is the keynote, and the value of education is duly spotlit. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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