Algerian director Monia Meddur’s second live-action feature film, Huria. The voice of freedom is both a rough social cut centered on the position of women in contemporary Algeria and a lyrical hymn to dance as an instrument of rebirth, rebirth and resistance.
In modern Algeria Huria she has a double life: by day, she is a talented dancer who is waiting for her big break to join the Algiers National Ballet; an opportunity to seize on a girl trying to do her best, leading a life of sacrifice and renunciation in order to be noticed by a famous choreographer. At night, on the other hand, Huria is often in the midst of secret wagers, in particular in fights between fighting animals; his goal is to buy a car to take care of his elderly mother. It is in one of these cases, after a big win, that Uria is attacked and seriously injured: a woman breaks her leg and gets injured, due to which she completely loses her voice. Completely terrified, frustrated by the inertia of the authorities, Huria finds unexpected refuge in a rehabilitation group made up of women who, like her, have experienced trauma and abuse; Having begun to teach dancing to her companions, a woman thus begins the difficult path of ascent.
Three years after the previous You don’t know Papichapresented as part of Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2022, directed by Munya Meddur returns to the position of women in contemporary Algeria with this Huria – Voice of freedom, already in the Rome Film Fest 2022 competition. Compared to her previous film, from which this work borrows a large part of the cast, most notably the main character Lina Khoudri, the director nevertheless makes the dialogue even more important, making the film look like a score music and images; a score that, on the one hand, once again dramatizes the abuses suffered by the female gender in a society that has been the victim of a toxic patriarchy – less overt than in the past, but perhaps even more insidious for that reason; on the other hand, it celebrates the regenerative and thaumaturgical power of dance, creating its own language, which joins (and finally replaces) verbal language, setting the protagonist on a path of difficult rebirth.
The body that resists
The original idea about Huria – Voice of freedom may recall a recent film by Cédric Klapisch Life is a dance, with whom the work of Monia Meddur shares the theme of trauma and ascension through an all-consuming passion for dance; however, in Meddura’s film, the disturbance that the protagonist suffers from (a near-perfect Cowdry, able to perfectly compensate for the character’s non-verbality throughout most of the film) is inflicted, not accidental, and is also social in nature, because it (also) affects the ability to verbalize expression. In this way, the director celebrates dance as a tool to resist the oppression that affects the female body, which is denied not only the right to full citizenship (the protagonist’s desire to buy a car is a kind of outrageous violation of unwritten restrictions), but also the most basic expression and communication. Huria’s dancing body thus becomes a symbol of resistance, but also a means of transmitting knowledge – through teaching dances to his comrades – subversive and “revolutionary” in his own way.
shadow and light
A film capable of exuding an optimism that transcends (but does not negate) the rough social cut it displays, Huria – the voice of freedom in any case, he makes no allowances in terms of representation, living precisely in the contrast of his two souls: the daytime, theatrical path of rebirth and the rebirth of the protagonist, and the palpable, sometimes overwhelming, sympathy between her and her new comrades; and then the one that plunges into Algiers in the middle of the night, into the slums where the real face of the regime reigns, oppressive and poisonous in its machismo, where fights between animals – what are the names of world political leaders given (Obama, Trump, Putin) – to a small extent they imitate, and perhaps even exorcise evil spirits, a clash between peoples, caused against the light and always fearful. The solution may be, as in the case of Huria’s friend who entrusted her life to a smuggler, an attempt to escape to an idealized Europe, a real leap into the dark, which, however, in particular, assumes the traps of necessity, not choice; or, for the main character herself, using a special talent to testify and profess resistance. In a word, activism, although in a different sense than we usually understand this word. The one who basically leads the movie Monya Meddura political work that can best express the so-called “optimism of the will.”
Original name: Huria
Director: Munya Meddur
Country/year: Algiers / 2022
Throw: Lina Khudri, Amira Hilda Duauda, Francis Nijim, Marwan Fares, Rashida Brakni, Salim Kissary
Screenplay: Munya Meddur
Photo: Leo Lefebvre
Assembly: Damien Keye
Music: Maxence Duesser, Yasmine Meddur
Director: Patrick André, Xavier Gens, Grégoire Gensollin
Production house: The Ink Connection, High Sea Production, Shotinmars
Distribution: miracle pictures
Release date: 06/21/2023