Review: ‘As I Open My Eyes’ is a fine Tunisian film

Farah is a fiery 18-year-old who wants to skip her chance go to medical school to study music and play in a band with her boyfriend. Hayet is her fiercely protective mother, who is having nothing of her daughter throwing away her future to chase her musical dream.

That is pretty standard stuff. It soon becomes apparent that Farah’s music and her association with her band members is dangerous.


 “As I Open My Eyes” is set in Tunisia in 2010, and Farah and company are protest singers, dissenting against the repressive regime of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, whose dictatorship fell the next year in the “Jasmine Revolution,” the first upheaval in the Arab Spring.

Director/co-writer Leyla Bouzid, a native of Tunisia, tells Farah’s story and gives a glimpse into the time just before the Arab Spring in her very well-crafted first feature that draws on her own experiences and is filled with music, some from the great Iraqi oud player Khyam Allami.

 She gets a pair of fine performances to carry the film — from newcomer Baya Medhaffer, who gives Farah a free-spirited determination offset by some clueless naivete about her actions, and from singer Ghalia Benali as Hayet, who has a striking presence on camera and fully conveys Hayet’s love for her daughter, no matter what happens.
Journal Star

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