The Narrow Frame of Midnight
Moroccan-Iraqi director Tala Hadid presents her first feature film, setting it chiefly in her two ancestral homes.
Zacaria (Khalid Abdalla) is leaving Morocco in order to track down his brother Yosef who has gone to Iraq, presumably to join jihadist rebels. The film hints that he turned a blind eye while his brother was tortured in Moroccan prisons, perhaps precipitating his motivation to fight in Iraq. On the way, he encounters a young orphaned girl, Aicha (Fadwa Boujouane) who has been sold to a sleazy French sex trader and his abused girlfriend. He manages to whisk her away from her captors, leaving her with an ex-lover, Judith, played by the excellent Quebecois actress Marie-Josée Croze. All three are seeking something and taking physical and mental journeys in order to get what they need.
There’s a quiet elegance that hangs over the film, chiefly achieved through stunningly realized cinematography, whether it be in the chic, plaintive surroundings of Judith’s Moroccan country house, the sterile blood-soaked rooms of a Baghdad morgue, or in a pure white city square filled with women in black abayat. The horror of this film is presented calmly, reacted to without fuss from our leads, Croze and Abdalla. From this comes my frustration with the film. Croze and Abdalla keep their performances so closed off that little emotion comes through. Their past, their motivations and their relations to each other are barely discussed, and it becomes demanding for the viewer to seek out the clues. They meander aimlessly without direction and without hope of achieving their goals. The result is that it is difficult to relate to them or even to sympathize with them. Aicha emerges as the most sympathetic character, and her youthful energy is a bright-spot in a film that keeps its cards close to its chest. (Cameron Bryant)
Friday, September 5th, 9:30pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
Saturday, September 6th, 2:45pm, Jackman Hall AGO
Sunday, September 14th, 8:00pm, Scotiabank 7