Nov 18th 2022

(Moufida Tlatli, 1994, Tunisia/France, 114 min, 35mm)


A stunning debut feature from Tunisian filmmaker (and longtime editor of Arab cinema) Moufida Tlatli, THE SILENCES OF THE PALACE questions the relationship of women’s liberation with class and national struggles, looking unflinchingly at the traumas inflicted by patriarchal-colonial structures across two periods of Tunisian history.

THE SILENCES OF THE PALACE opens in the mid-1960s with Alia (Ghalya Lacroix), a young wedding singer whose unexpected pregnancy complicates her relationship with a member of the nationalist elite. Told through flashbacks, the film soon wades into Alia’s memories of her upbringing (her younger self played by Hend Sabry) during the period of French protectorate-occupation just before Tunisia’s independence in 1956. Coming of age in the palace of the royal regime aligned with the French, Alia witnesses her mother, Khedija (Amel Hedhili), and the palace’s other servants endure sexual exploitation silently.

Woven throughout the film is an awareness of the multitude of forms that resistance can take in women’s struggles, made particularly clear in the rebellious possibilities of music and finding one’s voice.

SILENCES is considered the first film by an Arab woman filmmaker to become an international hit, garnering several international awards, including a special mention in the best debut feature category at the Cannes Film Festival (making Ms. Tlatli the first female Arab director to be honored at that festival).

35mm print courtesy of Institut français. Special thanks to Laurence Geannopulos and Richard Magnien for their support.

Presented with support from the Villa Albertine Chicago – Cultural Service of the French Embassy and MENA at Northwestern University.

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