A celebration of courage and solidarity
Honey and Ashes
Directed by Nadia Fares
With Nozha Khouadra, Amel Ledhili, Naji Najeh, Samia Mzali
Screened at the 45th Sydney Film Festival
Review by Francesca Davis
Honey and Ashes is a powerful movie that celebrates female solidarity and courage in the face of women's oppression in Tunisia. Three women's stories are woven together by their common experience of abuse and strong resistance to it. Beautifully filmed and acted, the film brings home the brutal way in which these women's lives are indelibly shaped by their gender.
Leila falls in love with a man promised to another. Fed up with being beaten by her father because of her forbidden relationship, she decides to run away with her boyfriend. He returns her love but lacks the courage to confront his mother and leave.
Unable to return to her father's house, Leila moves to the city and turns to prostitution to put herself through college. Despite her strength and courage, social constraints are too much for her, and the story ends tragically.
Leila's story flows into those of Naima and Amina, crossing class and geography to demonstrate the commonality of the problems women face and the injustices they endure.
This allows the film to explore a variety of different locations. There are contrasting shots of the harsh beauty of the Tunisian desert and city and coastal scenes.
All of the women portray strength, sensuality and solidarity with their sisters in the face of parents and husbands seeking to control them.
The ever-present dangers of a patriarchal society are shown. Leila genuinely fears that her father may kill her. Naima, a doctor, is called to a house where a young girl has been killed in an 69>accident70>.
Sexual double standards and the clash between modern western culture and traditional Arab culture lend the narrative a tension that makes Honey and Ashes a gripping, moving and inspirational film.