Lonely Lilia (Hiam Abass), a widow with a teenage daughter, Salma (Hend El Fahem) sews and sweeps and dresses drably, lives like an empty shell. Her life is going nowhere, and she is withdrawn, resigned. Reluctantly, she allows herself to be drawn into the world of the cabaret in her neighbourhood, where several women bellydance for the regular clientele. As she warms to the idea and begins to dance regularly, her enjoyment of bellydancing, the sensuality of the music, brings out her true self again, but she hides it from friends and neighbours. Meanwhile her daughter has secretly fallen in love with a musician, Cokri (Maher Kamoun) at the cabaret, who becomes infatuated with Lilia, not realising she’s his girlfriend’s mother.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In its home country of Tunisia, Satin Rouge could be a controversial film for its two mild sex scenes. It’s also outspoken in the Arab social context with its storyline – yet through western eyes, the film is gentle, unhurried and inoffensive.
The debut feature by Raja Amari, Satin Rouge is a character study of a woman widowed too young; her reluctance to move on with her life in all senses is broken down by the dance.
Bellydancing, with its ancient roots and links to fertility rituals, is a colourful and physical expression of life forces that Lilia has to rediscover. There is some irony in the fact that most Arab cultures regard public bellydancing in nightclubs as corrupt. Everything relative, I suppose.
The film’s slow development allows for greater detail in observation, and the sensitive, potentially murky elements of the relationships between mother –daughter-boyfriend are deftly handled by Amari, who elicits terrific performances from everyone, especially Hend El Fahem as Selma and Hiam Abass as the mother. Satin Rouge will appeal to festival goers and anyone with a sense of cinematic curiosity.
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SATIN ROUGE (M)
CAST: Hiam Abass, Hend El Fahem, Maher Kamoun, Monia Hichri, Nadra Lamloum, Faouzia Badr
PRODUCER: ADR Productions
DIRECTOR: Raja Amari
SCRIPT: Raja Amari
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Diane Baratier
EDITOR: Pauline Dairou
MUSIC: Nawfel el Manaa
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kais Rostom
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2002