Immigration is big in the news these days – mostly the opposition to it–  around the world.  It is absolutely the case that most people welcome immigrants when they need them and curse them when they don’t.  What the natives really want is the fairy tale world of snapping fingers to make the genies of cheap labor appear and disappear as needed.  It was as true in France after WW II as it is now.

Inch’Allah Dimanche, a quite wonderful, if not quite complete, film from French Algerian director Yamina Benguigui, explores in microcosm what happens when, after ten years, women and children are allowed to join their worker-husbands in mainland France.  Zouina, as played by the wonderful Fejria Deliba,  also French Algerian, brings three children, and her ferocious mother-in-law [Rabia Mokeddem] to a small row-house in Saint Quentin, France.  After a too painful parting from her own mother at embarkation — with the mother-in-law cursing her, and the children frantic — she arrives to a husband, Ahmed,  [Zinedine Soualem] who is more engaged with his mother than with his wife.

Zouina, despite having to steal the key to get out of the house, begins to make her way around the neighborhood and into the prize flower bed of her next door neighbor after the hyper competitive horticulturist stabs the kids’ soccer ball for a transgression into her sweet babies – that would be flowers.  She learns the strange ways of shopping, that you can’t prepare your coffee in the back yard, and that some French women are demons and others are friends.  She knows when one brings a gift of lipstick and rouge it must be hidden, after a quick try and pleasure at seeing the results.

Deliba  is really wonderful as the determined, curious — and beautiful– mother.   Her  mother-in-law is a dragon of almost unbelievable portions, though she won’t be seen as a stranger to many cultures we are more familiar with.  The man of the house is alternately a beginning guitar player painfully picking out “Apache,”  a dutiful son and a rage-filled husband.

The weakness of the movie  is that Benguigui didn’t quite make up her mind as to whether she had a comedy going, or an angry tale about women in the Arab world.  The husband administers several savage and prolonged beatings.  A heart wrenching scene ends Zouina’s  first contact with another Algerian woman well into the film.  On the other hand, the music, the exaggerated sneaking and running, the flower-gardening neighbors,  sometimes cast it as a French comedy — promising to be all well that ends well.

And in fact it does end well as, after one more escapade, Zouina comes home with her kids alone on a bus whose driver she has caught the eye of.   Ahmed, standing outside waiting for her, suddenly orders his mother to shut-up and go back inside and seems to leap to a new regard of his wife — who announces proudly “From now on, I am walking my children to school.”

An evening of intelligent fun and social commentary, not nearly as disturbing as BiutifulAlejandro González Iñárritu‘s wrenching film, with Javier Bardem, about immigrant life in Barcelona.  Inch’Allah Dimanche won several awards in 2001 for best film, best actress and for  the director.  A very nice sound track complements much of it,  including several songs by Algeria’s well known Berber singer and song writer, Idir, [and here and here,] Alain Blesing’s “Lail” and “Djin,”  Hamou Cheheb’s sweet and scathing “Mon enfance,” [My Childhood.]  (English [google] translation below the fold.)

The title by the way, mixed Arabic and French, translates to “Sunday, God Willing.”

I’m going to watch it again, just to gaze, like the bus driver,  at Fejria Deliba‘s smile.

My childhood

When I was a Kid
I hunted frogs
In a stinking creek
Where misery streamed
Before killing
I thought of legionaries
These lost souls paid for war 

The infamous legion
Crucified children
Violated women
Men banished
Men against the wall
The praying hands in the air
Not to succumb under torture

I clung to life
Armed with just my childhood
My hopes were called independence
Where are you independent?

This morning a man lay
In a pool of blood
On the way to school
Not far from home
I had a degree, that of fear
That’s the world of men
Stupidity and horror

In class I told
My friends scared to
The teacher hit me
At the head with his keys
Blood was mixed
To my snot and tears
I painted all my books

I clung to life …

Parents distraught
By “events”
For a whisper
We took a correction
Outside the military
We were running behind
I did not ask to come to earth

When someone
Murder was done
People said near
“He at least he has peace”
The houses had become cemeteries
The OAS machine-gunned the funeral processions

I clung to life …

A teacher who claimed my brother
62 came from the Middle East
He reopened the wounds
Masters of the West
His guns are turned
Ready to commit suicide
To those who refused
The color of his passport

I always cling to life
Armed with just my songs
My hopes have not changed your name
Where are you independent?

© Copyright 1976

Posted by CHEHEB Hamou at 10:14 p.m