A sincere story of the struggle for female emancipation in an African village
You could easily dismiss The Source as a simplistic, sentimental fare but the latest film from director Radu Mihaileanu (The Concert, Live And Become etc.) is told with such warmth and sincerity that it is hard to resist. The struggle for female emancipation in an African village develops into a beguiling salute to the power of positivity as entrenched attitudes are confronted by the hunger for change.
The setting is a small, drought-ridden village situated somewhere between North Africa and the Middle East. Unemployment and peaceful stability have left the male population with little to do but loll around, sipping tea and watching time slip past. The women are still expected to travel across barren rocky ground in sweltering heat to fetch water from a mountaintop spring. Leila (Leila Bekhti) is the spitfire who believes that something has to change. Her schoolteacher husband Sami (Saleh Bakri) is sympathetic and Mother Rifle (Biyouna) encourages her to organise direct action - a universal withdrawal of conjugal rights until the menfolk acknowledge the right to equality. It is the beginning of a bitter struggle between traditionalist and reformist.
The Source initially seems to deal in one-dimensional attitudes with the women as heroic rebels and the men as feckless chauvinists chained to the past. That develops into a more considered view and a sense of how the men feel emasculated by the decline of their traditional roles. The sheer injustice at the heart of an overlong tale still creates an automatic sympathy for the women, sisters in a way to the women in Made In Dagenham. Special mention goes to Biyouna as the wise Mother Rifle, a character that becomes the heart and soul of this feel good fairytale.