Until the Birds Return
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Director: Karim Moussaoui
2017, France/Germany/Algeria, 113 minutes
Synopsis: Karim Moussaoui’s brilliant debut tells three loosely related stories set in a contemporary Algeria of abandoned construction sites, desert roads, and hospitals: a middle-aged businessman witnesses a brutal beating and fails to intervene; a young woman’s father asks her former boyfriend to drive her to her wedding; a hardworking neurosurgeon is asked to adopt the son of a woman whose gang rape he witnessed during the civil war. Weaving these Chekovian tales together in a seamless three-part structure, Moussaoui reflects upon his country’s past, present, and future, sketching in the challenges faced by several generations of Algerians while evoking universal moral dilemmas and disappointment. Through his carefully controlled vision of the happenstance of everyday life, Moussaoui recalls the understated rigor of masters such as Krzysztof Kieslowski and Abbas Kiarostami, yet also allows himself exhilarating flights of fancy such as an impromptu song and dance number on the side of a desert highway. Such formally ambitious, insightful films rarely come along, let alone in the hands of a first-time director. In a single feature, Karim Moussaoui has established himself as a major new voice on the international film scene.