The Secret of the Grain (2007)

This is a loud, bustling, vibrant movie. The message is not so much of hope or of fear, but rather that it is what it is. At the center of the film is a stubborn, taciturn immigrant from Tunisia, Slimane (Habib Boufares) has spent 35 years working in the shipyards of Sète, a rough little French port city on the Mediterranean coast. The other members of his large, cantankerous family — his former wife, Souad (Bouraouïa Marzouk), and their assorted children and grandchildren — live mostly in a battered high-rise housing project. Slimane, meanwhile, keeps a modest room in the blue-collar hotel run by his lover, Latifa (Hatika Karaoui), and her 20-year-old daughter, Rym (the amazing Hafsia Herzi), on whom he dotes as if she were his own.

The story of immigrants in France is demonstrated rather than explored. The sense of being French, not being French, and not accepted as French is a constant theme, and this exists outside of any overt prejudice or mistreatment. The adherence to the culture of the homeland is also quite evident. The family structure is as it was in Tunisia, and it is quite inviting. The involvement of the family across generations is easy going and balanced. They work together for the greater good throughout the movie, and even the black sheep of the family is neutralized by the reaction of others. It is a winsome yet hopeful voice of immigration for a better life.

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Filed under French Film, Movie Review

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