December 3, 2023

The Source (La Source des Femmes): A Review

A Moroccan film about water, love and feminism.

How far would you be willing to go to ensure you had a running water source in your village? This film sees a group of women from a Moroccan village defy their tradition, stand up against their religious roles as wives and endure physical hardships to gain, not just water, but love, respect and rights as women.

This fable about the tradition of the water source is not just about the need for running water, but rather, about the struggle between tradition and modernisation. In times of change, this fable challenges the traditional values of the household in a Moroccan village as the women take a stand to be heard.

The Source, directed by Romanian director Radu Mihaileanu, is a feel-good comedy about female empowerment, but which gets off to a rather serious start. The film opens with a woman in the village giving birth juxtaposed with a woman losing her baby on the mountain top as she collects her water from the source. This paradox of life and death is one of the many that are presented and juxtaposed as this film tries to show how everything is interconnected including being a man and a woman.

The women have been collecting water every day for centuries from the source and it is now considered a tradition in the village considered as tradition. The route the women take is treacherous and many women, including leading lady Leïla (Leïla Bekhti), have lost their babies up by the source. Leila decides that enough is enough and with the help of a widow from the village persuades the women to go on a ‘love strike’ until the men fit a water pipe that will end the precarious walk to collect this life sustaining water. This strike, however, seems to embody much more than just the need for water.

At the centre of the light hearted comedy lies a very real truth, that of inequality. Throughout the film the men and women are separated into separate spaces, the women mainly in the home, private space, and the men mainly in the café, mosque, city and schools. The women are fighting for equal rights in the home alongside the public sphere. This film is, therefore, based on heavy issues in a society that is built upon tradition and religion. The comedy, which seems to be aimed for an international audience, and the subplots in the film give the audience a welcomed relief from these issues and allow the film to be enjoyable to watch.

The film seems to be drawn out a little long and feels as though it loses its focus on what the women are fighting for, with no promise of change at the end of the film. However, this does not make the film any less enjoyable to watch.

Overall The Source is fantastic as it highlights society’s conflict between tradition and modernisation that has been experienced all over the world. Even though this film was set in a Moroccan village the issues are identifiable for an international audience. This makes the film accessible and interesting for all.

The Source was premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was well received.

Written by Shirley Welton, who also write for Global Arts Central.

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