The Source is an extremely beautiful exploration of the traditional Muslim culture in a small North African village. It may focus on a single village, yet it represents a much broader picture of femininity and equality that deserves to be brought to the attention of a wide audience.
The Source is the amalgamation of a true story and a mountain of research conducted by French director Radu Mihaileanu. The story it is based upon occurred in a Turkish village in 2001. The women had always fetched water and the men not only refused to help carry it, but would not even install water pipes. So, after a series of water-fetching accidents, the women took matters into their own hands. Their weapon was themselves, and their method was to wage a ‘love strike’ against their husbands. This story is reproduced in The Source, where we are exposed to the violent reaction this incites in the men, as well as the tender scenes that such a situation can bring about between those who are not stuck in tradition.
Mihăileanu described the setting as a “North African or Arabian village” or more poetically “wherever a source flows and love dries up”. The big picture in this remote settlement is of two cultures colliding. Knowledge and education are beginning to encroach on the traditional way of life, making some people angry.
The main character, Leila, is played by rising star Leila Bekhti (Paris, je t’aime and A Prophet), and she is the source of change in this story. She is seen as an outsider, having come from the south to marry her husband (played by Saleh Bakri) out of love. However, it is exactly this quality that enables her to see past the stifling traditions and decide that something needs to be done. Bekhti plays her character beautifully, fusing a fierce determination to her beauty and ensuring she stands out from the crowd. Her husband has been teaching her how to read and write, and this education makes many inhabitants of the village are wary of her. Luckily she has the love and support of her husband and is determined enough to keep going.
Despite Leila’s charisma, she would not have been able to persuade the women of the village to go on the love-strike if it were not for the help of the fantastically formidable Mother Rifle. Why is she called ‘rifle’? Well as one character says, her “words are like bullets”. This character, played by Algerian singer/actress Biyouna (Viva Algeria and Délice Paloma), is widowed and thus free from the constraints of a man. Mother Rifle is able to rise to Leila’s aid with some inspiringly fierce speeches and, as Mihaileanu says, embody a kind of “justice of the peace”. She is a fantastic character, who provides us with many golden moments of comedy, including a hilarious scene where she rides a donkey while talking on a cell phone with an iffy signal.
Although far removed from Western values, this story still feels very current. It deals with many issues we see in the media on a daily basis, including misconceptions about the message of the Koran and the extreme views of Islamic fundamentalists. The film sheds light on the Islam, revealing many of its positive facets in a beautifully natural way.
The language spoken in The Source is the Darija dialect of Arabic spoken in Morocco, which was chosen for its beautiful melodious quality. Melody plays a big part in the film as many things cannot be stated directly within this traditional society, so song and dance step in to fill the gaps. These numbers look and sound joyous, even if the underlying message is scathing.
This mixing of opposites is a common theme, with comedy and tragedy taking place side-by-side. This has the effect of lightening some situations that could otherwise be unbearable, and making The Source a very watchable film. Occasionally it looks a little like a documentary – the actors have very natural, unaltered appearances – which creates a more intimate and realistic feel than the average Hollywood film. This aesthetic works to reinforce the relevance of the important issues the film raises.
The Source is out in cinemas this Friday (18th May) and you can see the trailer below: