Baya's Mountain | Chicago Reader

Baya's Mountain

Set in the 1800s among the Berbers of North Africa, this 1997 Algerian feature concerns a noble widow who receives a customary purse of gold coins from the enemy tribe that murdered her husband; the gift puts her in conflict with her kinsmen, who want the money to buy back land taken by the enemy in cahoots with French colonials. Much of the film has a harsh, ethnographic look similar to a Flaherty film or Pasolini's Medea (scenes in which the dispossessed Berbers carry bags of fertile soil to the top of their mountain refuge are particularly riveting), but the story meanders as the widow grooms her son to avenge his father's death, and it's further compromised by choppy editing, bad continuity, and performances that seem either blank or overwrought. Still, writer-director Azzedine Meddour deserves high marks for dramatizing the lore of the Berbers in their native tongue of Tamazight, given their continued mistreatment at the hands of the Arab-dominated Algerian government. 124 min.

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