Helen from SQIFF writes about WWII drama The Wedding Song, part of our Queer Women in Love season.
A slightly left-field choice for SQIFF’s Queer Women in Love season, The Wedding Song (2008) doesn’t depict a straightforward romance or sexual relationship between women. Rather writer and director Karin Albou’s film portrays an ambiguous, sensual bond between two teenagers living in Tunis during WWII: Nour, who is Muslim, and Myriam, who is Jewish. Conflict and politics play out around them, at first distant or offscreen, away from the pair’s feminine spaces, until encroaching anti-semitism disturbs their dreamy harmony.
The Wedding Song begins with an image of cautious freedom, a flashback to the main characters as younger children singing and playing a wedding-themed game. We then jump to Nour and Myriam’s point of view from behind a barred window as they watch men leaving a mosque and giggle over the handsomeness of Nour’s fiancé, Khaled. The image of the young women as if incarcerated and looking on at the male world going about its self-important business sets up the story to come.
At first, Nour and Myriam bond at the local hammam (Turkish bath), a site of cheerful banter and comfortable nakedness, or at a bizarre but fun party where women cut off the balls of a dead animal and parade around with them for laughs. As the Germans step up their campaign of terror, though, Nour and Myriam gradually become separated. Desperate for work, Khaled is employed to pass information to the Nazi occupiers and presses Nour to end her relationship with one of his targets, Myriam and her family. The young Jewish woman and her mother, played by director Albou, in turn are forced to seek the protection of an older doctor, Simon, whose wealth and position allows him to fend off the anti-semitic round-ups and fines. The camera follows this progressive breaking of bonds. At the film’s beginning, Nour and Myriam are often pictured together, touching and laughing. After their world begins to crumble, they are increasingly shown alone, isolated from each other whilst unseen (but heard) bombs drop around them and Nazi soldiers clump with their jackboots through Tunis’ narrow stone streets.
The Wedding Song is a follow-up to Albou’s 2005 movie, Little Jerusalem, a contemporary drama about conflicts played out within a Jewish family living on the outskirts of Paris. Her later film continues an intense focus on the intersection of religion, race, and class and their impacts on women’s lives and loves.
The Wedding Song screens in Inverness on 16th November, Glasgow on 17th November, and London on 13th December. For more details and tickets, visit www.sqiff.org/events