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DFI Film Review: How Big is Your Love (2011)

Jan 22, 2012

Written by Reem Saleh, New Media, DFI

Film: “Kedash Ethabni” (How Big is Your Love)
Director: Fatma Zohara Zamoum
Stars: Racim Zemnadi, Nadja Debahi-Laaraf, Abdelkader Tadjer
Year: 2011
Running Time: 98 mn

Adel (Racim Zemnadi), eight years old, is sent to stay at his grandparent’s house for the weekend. Two days turn into a week. Things are not promising; his parents’ quarrel is leading to an inevitable divorce. But his presence with a caring old couple Khadidja (Nadja Debahi-Laaraf) and Lounès (Abdelkader Tadjer) will transform his temporarily stay to a touching lesson about love.

“Kedash Ethabni” is the second feature for Algerian filmmaker Fatma Zohra Zamoum who’s written, directed and produced the film. She adds a feminist twist to the subject of divorce and its effects on the modern family.

We don’t see much of the divorce itself, but instead we see it through the eyes of the child and his grandparents. The child spends most of his time with Khadidja who is simple and uneducated. She tries everything to make Adel’s stay a pleasant one. She cleans his room, takes him to the zoo and embraces him with love and trust. Their unique bond reflects her loneliness as a woman, wife and grandmother. She discovers through him, a part of her that needs to live again.

Adel is a raw subject of affection. He triggers Khadidja into experiencing new things without her husband’s knowledge, such as going to the movies for the first time in her life. They become inseparable accomplices in their adventures, and a healthy way to escape from family tensions.

Adel’s grandfather on the other hand, is a typical Algerian parent who shows little or no emotion. He doesn’t mind his grandson but protects himself from revealing his feelings as not to weaken the child or worse, appear weak himself. He reacts with anger when Adel spends a lot of time with his grandmother in the kitchen because “boys shouldn’t cook”. But he is the one to introduce Adel to the world of animals by teaching him how to take care of the family pet sparrows.

The different reaction of the grandparents reflects the communication gaps that can be better sensed by women. This is a universal problem also described by Michelangelo Antonioni in 1960’s “L’Avventura ”, where women are the ones to predict when a relationship lacks understanding, or when something is going wrong.

The child’s presence with this old couple plays a major role in assessing the past. When seeing Adel suffering from a strong fever after witnessing his parents fighting, Lounès drowning in worry asks, “Where did we go wrong?” Khaddidja answers, “You were a bit strict on the kids”.

And there’s Adel, who captures our heart with his performance. He has a natural on-screen chemistry with his grandmother. Wherever they are, there’s joy, hope and an abundance of affection. One worries what will become of them if they are ever separated.

“Kedash Ethabni” which premiered at the 3rd Doha Tribeca Film Festival, caught my attention for its smooth narrative, attention to detail and magnificent acting. It’s a film that portrays the basics sentiments of love, nature, children and the elderly in a realistic and poetic manner.

Zamoum who is a painter, meticulously frames her shots leaving nothing to random. “Kedash Ethabni” is a tender drama that could take place in any house and opens our eyes to the consequences of our actions and the effects of divorce on children.

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How Big is Your Love - Trailer

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