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Masquerades 2008

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Global Film Initiative, 145 Ninth St., #105, San Francisco, CA 94103
Produced by Dharamsala, Laïth Média and Arte France Cinéma
Directed by Lyès Salem
DVD, color, 92 min.

Jr. High - General Adult
Film Studies, Gender Studies, Language, Middle Eastern Studies, Popular Culture, Postcolonialism, Women’s Studies

Date Entered: 12/07/2011

Reviewed by Jennifer Dean, MALS student, City Univerity of New York (CUNY Graduate Center)

Keeping up appearances creates intricate fabrications that lead to a comedy of errors in Lyès Salem’s Masquerades.

Khliffa loves Rym despite her bouts of narcolepsy – which lead the rest of the community to label her as handicapped. Rym’s brother (and Khliffa’s best friend) Mourir knows nothing of their undeclared love (Khliffa fears his disapproval). After learning of nasty gossip floating around town about his sister being unable to obtain a suitor, Mourir, in a drunken outburst, screams in the middle of the town square that his sister is betrothed.

To complicate matters further, Mourir’s wife Habiba hatches a plan to solve the problem by creating a fictional suitor for Rym to turn down. Rym, however, angered by Khliffa’s inability to confront her brother with their love decides to accept the hand of this fictional betrothed, a rich American. News of the wealthy American fiancée quickly spreads, making the family the envy of the village.

Masquerades is an incredibly entertaining film. It addresses serious subjects through the use of humor (such as gender relations and illness causing alienation in a community) without ever demeaning the subjects or being overly earnest. From a linguistic perspective the film is interesting because as an Algerian film it is in Arabic but with a few distinctly French phrases sprinkled throughout. The language and the manufacturing of the iconic American Rym is supposed to marry, raise issues of Post-colonialist identity. Sometimes lessons are best learned through humor.

Highly Recommended


  • Bronze Stallion at FESPACO
  • Best Arab Film at the Dublin International Film Festival
  • Best Arabic Film at the Cairo International Film Festival