Nardjes, A


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Nardjes A
"While the film may be light on political detail, Aïnouz captures the sense of an old struggle being made young again."

Shot by experienced documentary cinematographer Juan Sarmiento G over a single 24-hour period on International Women's Day, 2019, in Algiers, Karim Aïnouz's Nardjes A offers a vibrant snapshot of the life of young actress and activist Nardjes, as she takes to the streets.

She and thousands like her are part of the Hirak movement (the word "hirak" itself means "movement") - which began in February 2019, just days after president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced he would flout the constitution by standing for a fifth term of office. The protests are also sometimes referred to as the Revolution of Smiles - a sentiment that is admirably captured by this film, which shows how rather than the often-depicted "angry mob", most protests are joyous gatherings of people, brought together by a sense of solidarity and community that give a sense of warmth and belonging to those who take part.

Aïnouz intercuts the footage of Nardjes' day - from breakfast at home, to meetings with friends, to the march and emotional cool down at dinner and clubbing afterwards - with voiceover in which she articulates her own thoughts on the protest day and the state of her nation, also setting it within a historical context, both political and familial.

These quieter lulls in the film offer a change of pace to the bustle of the march, where Nardjes encounters young and old with a single focus, to oust the old government in favour of younger hearts and minds, many singing protest songs or chanting in unison with the energy of a football crowd. The intimacy of the phone camerawork makes the viewer feel part of the crowd and the positivity of Nardjes and those around her is infectious - from the old woman giving voice to years of annoyance to the small boy who people cheer on to blow a whistle. While the film may be light on political detail, Aïnouz captures the sense of an old struggle being made young again, as Nardjes talks about her father, exiled for the first threes of her life to Germany for being a member of the Communist Party, and her mother, who was born in jail after the then-occupying forces incarcerated her grandmother.

There's a celebratory air to this push for regime change, although there's also an undercurrent of nervousness as police turn water cannon on protesters. "All we have to do is smile and kill you with peace," says Nardjes. You have to admire her optimism.

Reviewed on: 22 May 2021
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Nardjes, A packshot
Documentary about an activist in Algeria.

Director: Karim Aïnouz

Year: 2020

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: Algeria, France, Germany, Brazil, Qatar


BIFF 2020

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