Four guys run through the night, on a street of a working-class district. It could look like a playful running, a teenagers challenge but we soon discover that it is a short chase because of a mugging.
That’s how Madame Courage begins, a movie by Merzak Allouache, presented at the Venice Film Festival, in Horizons section. In an Algeria that could be Italy, Spain or USA, the young Omar lives drifting, with a sister forced to prostitute herself, a mum who lives everyday stuck to the television preachers –it is like an Islamic correspondent to Requiem for a Dream’s Ellen Burstyn- and with little thefts in order to pay for his distraction, called Madame Courage, a drug which is the only comfort in such a squalid life, lived under a ruthless sun. In this reality full of thefts that scan his everyday routine such as prayers do for a monk, Omar has a fulminating meeting: while he is extorting a khamsa (the typical Fatima’s hand), from his peer Selma’s neck, their gazes quickly meet, quickly enough to create in Omar a strong but innocent desire for the girl, that he will start to follow, risking his life. After Es-Stouh (at Venezia Festival two years ago), Allouache comes back with a drama which confirms his abilities in storytelling, with which he moves the audience into a context full of poverty and crimes, catching their attention with the simple realism of his play. Helped by the minimalist acting and his great cast, the Algerian director alights once again on the life disadvantages in this country, telling us about the situation using an honest and personal point of view. There’s also radical Islam’s threat (a theme, close to Allouache), suggested through the constant sermons in television that, in Algeria as in the rest of the world, poison minds with a permanent and lethal spoken dripping.
A finale left in uncertainty is not enough to relieve the load of a disadvantage story lived through the padded resignation given by drugs, where adolescence already has the face marked by pain and is full of scars due to a society that stays unresponsive in front of misfits. A little yet big story, that instructs and make the audience open their eyes with no presumption of reprimand.
Written by Alessia Pelonzi
Translation by Bianca Baroni
Photos: Alessio Costantino
In collaboration with Badtaste.it