Les silences du palais (Samt el qusur)

The unhappy Alia returns to the aristocratic palace where she grew up as a servant’s daughter. As she wanders through the palace, memories come flooding back. Superb drama, largely situated on the eve of the nationalist revolution that took place in Tunisia in 1956. Director Moufida Tlatli belongs to a new generation of Arab female filmmakers whose work is currently screened in EYE.

In 1994, Tunisian-born Moufida Tlatli was the first Arab female filmmaker to achieve international fame with her long feature film Les silences du palais. The calmly narrated frame story focuses on the unhappy Alia, who is confronted with memories of her past as she learns of the death of prince Sid’Ali. She decides to return to the palace where she spent her childhood years and where her mother worked as a domestic servant and was also forced to perform sexual favours. Although it was a form of slavery in disguise, Alia’s mother managed to retain her dignity. However, she dreads the day her daughter will have to enter domestic service herself.  Alia does not know who her father was, though she suspects it might be prince Sid’Ali. The prince’s private empire crumbled on the eve of the nationalist revolution of 1956, and so Alia may escape her fate and pursue her dream of becoming a singer.

This emotional and complex tale is an indictment of the position of women in Tunisia. Tlatli’s film was awarded the Best Film Debut prize at Cannes in 1994. Following the recent revolution in Tunisia, she briefly served as Minister of Culture.

Hend Sabry will be present during the screening on the 7th of June.