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VIFF 2008: Tragicomedy Combining Warmth and Complexity


The Secret Life of the Grain (Grade: A): Unsentimental, deeply moving and radiating a familial and sensuous charm throughout, Abdellatif Kechiche's César award-winning emigré drama, The Secret Life of the Grain, emerged the third full day of the 27th annual Vancouver International Film Festival as one of the early favourites to garner Fest recognition this year, a superbly made, well-acted family drama that packs a powerful emotional punch, and one of the films that is easily recommended for all discerning audiences. Due to screen twice more - on Wednesday, October 1st at 8:30pm (Empire Granville 7, Theatre 4), and again on Saturday, October 4th, at 2:30pm (Empire Granville 7, Theatre 3) - this is one film you won't want to miss.

The story of 61-year-old Slimane Beiji (Habib Boufares), a recently laid off shipyard worker and the divorced head of a passionately boisterous Franco-
Tunisian emigré family, although The Secret Life of the Grain centres on Slimane, in fact it is the many strong, vibrant women in the film - Slimane's daughters and women in his extended family - that pull the viewer into the film (most particularly, Hafsia Herzi, whose potent performance as Slimane's 'adoptive' daughter, provides the film with much of its verve and fulsome energy). The film's remaining women are almost equally as enchanting.

Where the emigré men in the film possess a beaten down quality arising from a worklife that has robbed them of their dignity, most of the women in the film have not only found a way of coping in a sometimes unwelcoming French society, but thriving (not least, one imagines, arising from the sensous beauty each possesses). A leisurely, narrative-driven, intimate family drama, in the process of exploring the emigré experience, The Secret Life of the Grain emerges as moving Festival film fare. A 2008 must-see.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 27, 2008 11:28 PM in VIFF 2008


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