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Algerian Women In Motion In Djamila Sahraoui’s Barakat!

Sophie Belot


Barakat! (Djamila Sahraoui, 2006) is one of the few films made by an Algerian (female) filmmaker in the early twenty-first century,i which takes place during the Algerian civil war (in the 1990s) and whose main characters are women. The everyday life of a young female doctor, Amel, is suddenly disrupted when her journalist husband disappears. A typical violent incident perpetrated by the Islamist guerrilla against the population spurs an atypical event, that of two women taking to the road in Algeria. Immobilised by the administrative system but determined to find her husband, Amel drives to the maquis and walks through devastated countryside. This journey away from home will take her back to her seaside home underlining, I will argue, the importance of her transformed consciousness. In this paper, the emphasis will be put on the physical journey as a personal and gendered one. On this journey, Amel is accompanied by a work colleague Khadidja, who, belonging to the previous generation, took part in the Algerian War of independence (1954-1962). Revisiting the past enables the film director, Sahraoui, to counteract old and new myths about women as freedom fighters during the Algerian War of independence and as ‘passive victims’ (to borrow Meredith Turshen’s terminology, 2002) during the civil war. Moreover, Sahraoui’s turn to the narrative of the road movie is significant in offering an alternative to binaries of active/passive. The crossing of times (postwar to postmodern) and cultures (American to European to Middle East) of the road movie genre has accentuated its malleability and mobility. I will therefore show that the travel and road motifs in Barakat! enable (Algerian) women (directors) to drive away from dominant identities and to focus instead on the notions of fluidity (of self) and connection (with others).


Barakat (djamila sahraoui); Algerian women; Motion/movement/mobility; Emotion; Road movie; Algerian civil war

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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