The Wedding Song
Directed by Karin Albou
Set in German-occupied Tunis during WWII, The Wedding Song follows the tumultuous friendship between two teenage girls: Nour, a Moslem (Olympe Borval), and Myriam, a Jew (Lizzie Brochere). In introducing their friendship, director Karin Albou lingers on scenes of the two girls dressing one another, washing each other in the traditional hammam and speaking with a level of intimacy that only childhood innocence affords. They've clearly been friends since they can remember and up until now, nothing has been able to threaten their bond. But, as the war progresses and the girls enter the first difficult stages of adolescence, their lives are driven in different directions. This is the second feature-length film from director Albou, and it's an incredibly beautiful, emphatic ode to feminism.
At the film's outset, obstacles to their friendship have already been set in place: Myriam's mother, Tita (played by director Albou), is struggling financially after losing her job as a seamstress, and Nour is preparing to enter married life with her handsome fiancé, Khaled (Najib Oudghiri). When the Germans force heavy reparation payments on the Jews, Tita must trade Myriam's hand in marriage to a wealthy, middle-aged doctor in exchange for their security. Khaled, out of work and unable to marry Nour without employment, takes a job as a translator working for the Germans. In the midst of war and now among men who place a cap on their freedom, Myriam and Nour see each other less and less, and their intimate conversations quickly devolve into conflicted glances on the street.
Despite contending with the violence of the war and the physical turmoil of adolescence, Myriam and Nour strive to remain forgiving and compassionate. Their friendship is a rare one—one that is found almost only in stories, but one that is representative of a greater bond found among women. Albou's ambivalence toward men and marriage is transparent: both Nour and Myriam long for loving relationships with men and, at times, the male characters show kindness and integrity, but overall, it is the girls' female bond and the strength of women that carries them safely through poverty and war. The film never pits women against men—rather, Albou chooses to celebrate women and to give voice to their quiet endurance. Though the film is titled The Wedding Song, the depth of Myriam and Nour's friendship suggests that Albou may be referring to a different kind of union.
Opens October 23