Movie Reviews By Bil Antoniou
is bewitching as Lilia, a Tunis widow who spends her days cleaning her apartment in her housedress while waiting for her daughter Salma to come home from school. When Salma decides to stay out all night at a friend’s house, Lilia thinks she might be with her musician boyfriend who she knows works at a nearby cabaret, so she enters the establishment and immediately befriends the women who dance there for the customers’ pleasure. Before she knows it, Lilia is herself donning the midriff-baring, sequin-covered costumes and showing an instinctive knack for the art of belly-dancing, which her new friend Folla coaches her in while, at home, Lilia’s daughter and nosy neighbours are clueless as to where she goes at night after they’ve all gone to sleep. This sweet and colourful film by Raja Amari plays like a fable, bringing up issues of class, religion and feminism in subtle and intelligent ways that always feel powerful despite the light touch she applies to her storytelling: the dancing is divine and almost always viewed from the dancers’ point of view, while the conflict in the narrative is Lilia’s own hesitation, there’s no manipulative silliness involving a jealous fellow performer or conservative relative (in fact, the women spend this entire movie building each other up, as all characters are treated with equal affection by Amari’s thoughtful guidance). The rebellion of Lilia is something that comes from her heart, and despite how slim the experience sounds, her journey is one that will touch the viewer deeply.