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In 1962, change comes to a Tunisian village on the edge of the Sahara. An entrepreneur sets up a salt mine, hiring village men. When he pays only half the wages agreed upon, they sit down in a field of rocks. The boss calls the army, who encircle the strikers. The women watch, sacrifice a sheep, pray, ululate. During the second night, a young woman hides the bucket and rope of the town's well to keep water from the army. The strike galvanizes her: she's learning to read and has studied a city woman who visits the village. Now, as she removes her traditional dress and rejects a ritual to cast out her new rebellious spirit, will she gain independence as did Tunisia and the strikers?Written by
This film explores the exploitation and Sisyphus-like labor of rural people in Tunisia. The men break rocks for wages they can barely live on. The women support the men - who are considered the lowest caste in society - when they go on strike, but the film shows that there is caste lower of that of these men. The women, among their other chores, pump water from a deep well that is a long and strenuous labor. They receive no payment for their work and are limited to the confines of their tiny village. When one young, unmarried woman discovers that there is a world different from hers outside her village, she wants to leave, but she receives no support from the other villagers.
This film beautifully illustrates the vast emptiness of these people's lives through the dusty, russet-colored landscape where everything is composed of either dirt, rock, or clay. Most effective though, is the piercing, squeaky sound of the rusty pump at the well. It becomes a sound of dismay and futility. If one could audibly create a sound of a prison in a wasteland, this would be it. It's been a few years since I've seen this film, but that sound still haunts me. When I think of the problems of my life, I often think back on the village in this film and others like it that still exist in many parts of the world. Movies like this should be seen by everybody.
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