FILM_REVIEWS__Arab blues (or the liberated word)

Manele Labidi's debut feature tells us the story of a young psychoanalyst trained in Paris, who decides to return to Tunisia, her country of origin, just after the social and political revolution of the “Arab Spring” takes place. Her uncles leave her a flat on the roof of a building in the Ezzahra neighborhood. There, she begins to receive patients. From Paris she brings a photograph of Freud with a fez and hangs it on a wall in her new office, possibly to remind her of how to practice in a country emerging from a totalitarian regime.

Selma bears the mark of two worlds and, knowing it or not, sets herself up as a cross-cultural agent. She does not lack work, patients go to her consultation to find a place to lodge her doubts, dissatisfactions and solve pending stories. A society that pushes to transform itself and that sees how its previous life begins to falter, bringing them even without knowing too much closer to the loneliness and individualism of post-modernity.


Selma is an uncomfortable element for the new system: How to regulate the practice of a psychoanalyst in a country that has just awakened to democracy?. The government does not make it easy for them, she must obtain permits, but it is not very clear what she must do to obtain them. Selma insists on her desire to be an analyst and she does not back down from a policeman - with whom she plays an attraction game - or an official in order to continue her work.

We see how a hairdresser, an imam, a baker and her niece frequent her office to talk and, in that talk, transform themselves just as society is doing as a whole. Freedom of expression is correlative to everyone's freedom of speech and Selma's consultation becomes a place to talk about the effects on each one of this political-social change. How to make Selma's office a place to go out with a knowledge of one's truth and not a place of pilgrimage where to exhort unspeakable guilt?

That is what the film is about, going beyond the political, social and feminist ideals that could be made in a first reading of the film. A difficult bet because making a critique of daily life of what happens in a consultation is not easy. The film wishes to be a light comedy that invites reflection, moving away from the drama so characteristic of Arab films of recent times. Manele Libidi's optimism and how she makes psychoanalysis a possible practice are appreciated. Even with all these good intentions, the film becomes so light that some characters are a caricature of a portrait, losing the possibility for the viewer to delve into the human complexity of the characters.

Helena Valldeperes