Review by David Ferguson
Greetings again from the darkness. Two red-headed freckled face boys herding sheep in rural Tunisia is a visual we’ve not previously see on screen. Writer-director Meryam Joobeur stumbled on the brothers while exploring the country, and the encounter led her to write the script … a story which also includes a younger brother.
Family dynamics and structure are the focus here as the father Mohamed tries to solve the slaughter of one of the sheep. It occurs the same day that the ‘black sheep’ son (the eldest) returns from war with a pregnant Syrian woman who is wearing a niquab. Mohamed is a proud man, and though his wife (Salha Nasraoui) acts as a peace-keeper, he cannot bring himself to accept the woman, or the son who brought her home.
Their land could kindly be described as hardscrabble, and with the conflict/war continuing, life has gotten tougher for these folks. Malek has returned from fighting in Syria, and with him comes a new form of suffering for the family. The father makes assumptions without speaking to his son, and it’s an assumption that can tear apart this once close family.
This 24 minute gem has fared exceedingly well at film festivals, and filmmaker Joobeur is working on turning the three non-professional acting brothers into a feature film. This short features tension and conflict in most every scene. It’s not the most comfortable viewing experience, but it’s spellbinding to watch. A longer run time would allow for better character development and an understanding of the history, but this relentless tension would need some breaks.
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