In Yasmina Yahiaoui’s congenial ensemble piece, the setting is Rue des Figuiers, a (figtreeless) North African neighborhood in Toulon, where women hold sway and fundamentalist puritanism is given short shrift. Djamila is a middle-aged, belly-dancing femme fatale whose long-term lover, the rakish hairdresser Marfouz, finally gives in to his family and imports a demure young bride from the Maghreb. This, needless to say, causes uproar among the street’s other inhabitants—including a no-nonsense madam, a teenage girl on the run from her own domineering mother and an eccentric grandmother, played by veteran Marthe Villalonga. Broad, boisterous and bracingly impious, Yahiaoui’s film is a provocatively upbeat broadcast from the female side of Islamic culture.
Visually brisk and not a little cartoonish, Where Fig Trees Grow carries more than a dash of Pedro Almodóvar’s influence, camp lip-sync sequences included.
Born in Saint-Denis in 1964, Yasmina Yahiaoui studied journalism and worked in the press before moving to producing segments for the television magazine Sucré-Salé and, later, Saga-Cités, which dealt directly with questions of immigrants and integration. In 1989, she directed Voilée-Dévoilée, Abou et Hol and in 2003, A Force, à force… y’en a marre!
Cast: Fellag, Marthe Villalonga, Joan Titus, Monia Hichri, Biyouna, David Mourouguin, Mounir Margoum, Souad Mouchrik
Writer: Soraya Nini
Producer: Kinok Films
Cinematographer: Pascale Granel
Editor: Catherine Schwartz
Sound: Nicolas Waschkomsky and Corinne Rozenberg