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Because it is not only about oil and guns

Because it is not only about oil and guns
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Can a terrorist have any morales? Could there be any possibilities for a terrorist to have his dignity preserved?

Plaguing questions stem from the recent spate of  films from the Middle East and Algeria. The films, far from depicting certain fixed locales and family histories, move at times beyond the need to reconsider what a country with a predominantly Islam population  look like.

There are deviances in the portrayal of characters and situations. Anyone who is familiarised with the pre-Obama slogans of the US would easily call these films  anti- American.

But it seems they have something more to offer rather than mere anti- American propaganda and showing some kind of dangerous essentialism inherent in the cinematography.

Merzak Allouache’s The Repentant cast in Algeria and the French border is the thought of a jihadi-terrorist, who drives his own life from the dangerous situation of being exposed and the challenge open before him to reveal his idea to a couple whose daughter is brutally  murdered.

Brilliantly cast with the tense and poised dialogues,  this film moves ahead of the normal shoot outs and wailing of dissidents and women – a regular feature that marks the films of terrorism. The who and why of terror remains strategically ambiguous in this film. The long history of rivalry between France and Algeria is sidelined.

Laura Sjoberg and Caron E Gentry have commented on the role of women as meek in the discourse of terrorism connected to amnesty between two countries. Allouache’s film depicts the same notion as he shows the pharmacist’s wife becoming a ‘token terrorist’. Rashid leading the couple to the graveyard where their daughter is buried, though emotionally charged, fails to grip the mind.

The motif of terrorism is gradually disappearing here. The fundamental question of anti–state ideology and the maddening frenzy of destruction remains. This is where The Repentant needs more critical analysis.
Removed from a fixed past and history, a couple distribute packets of money to every one on the road in the Iranian director Mani Haghighi’s film
Modest Reception.
The woman needs to cross the border. Their problems are few: to escape from the border police, examination at the check posts, overcoming the fear of self-destruction and fooling the people they come across.

At every step in their journey, the distribution of the money packets also becomes their own absurd drama of fooling themselves. There are breaks in the narration when we see the donkey runner dabandoning the pregnant animal in a sardonic twist of fate.

The final throwing away of  the notes to a grave digger by the man who subsumes himself to loss is the most significant turn of the film. The desire to lie down with the dead baby brings us into the a huge sense of loss.

The more the man digs the chattel into the earth, the more he realises the absurdity where in the grim night wolves surround the dead baby.

The woman vomiting in the car- a deliberate attempt to show pregnancy, which later deceives itself into a the murder of the child. The scenes in Modest Reception are hilarious while keeping the tense background intact. The mystery that surrounds the gang and the border are not disclosed anywhere in the film.

The film falls short in its depiction of a serious and constricted Iranian life.

Krishnan Unni P teaches English at Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi.
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