Based on Algerian author/screenwriter Moulded Mammeri's classic historical epic, this large scale drama chronicles the struggles of a tribe of Kabyls as they resist cultural annihilation by French colonialists at the dawn of WW II. Though Algeria (the second largest country in Africa) has been free of French rule since July 5, 1962, the damning and still inflammatory allegations of the book led director Abderrahamane Bouguermouth to spend 30 years searching for a backer to fund this production. The result of his battle is this painstakingly authentic (the elaborate female costumes were provided by Kabyl tribesmen) and richly detailed portrait of an ancient, mountain people fighting to maintain their traditional way of life in a rapidly changing world. The story is set in a remote mountain village and is taken from the journal of Mokrane, a worldly, well-educated young man who uses his writing to try to understand his parents' traditional ways. Due to the war, those men not already studying in France await their conscription into the French army. While in the village, he marries the beautiful Aazi. When several years pass and she proves unable to bear children, she becomes a pariah, the subject of cruelty and degradation from her neighbors. The only friend Aazi and Mokrane have left is Davda, who is having a dangerous (if he is caught, he will be stoned to death) affair with a wealthy married woman. Meanwhile, the entire town fights a losing battle against the corrupt officials who steal their wealth. They also struggle against the ravages of a typhoid epidemic. Mokrane's family becomes increasingly destitute until he and the sons of similarly afflicted families have little choice but to join the war effort. They know that when they do, their lives and those of their people will change forever.
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