Noura (Hind Sabry) is a laundress working in a hospital in Tunisia. She’s in her mid-forties, is a mother of three and her husband Jamal (Lotfi Abdelli) is a petty thief serving his time in a local jail.
Noura has a dream: getting a divorce from Jamal to marry her paramour Lassaad (Hakim Boumasoudi). She applies for a divorce and four days before it’s announced, Jamal is released and Noura’s dream becomes a nightmare.
Jamal’s character is very volatile, he’s a loving, and dotting father and the next he’s violent kicking them out to the street on a cold winter night. The relationship between him and Noura is no better, one minute he’s violating her and the next he’s promising to be a good father and a husband who’d find a job and start praying.
His personality contradicts that of Lassaad, who’s gentle, with a stable job, and willing to support Noura and her three children. Jamal discovers the affair and the situation gets complicated between the three of them.
So, what would Noura do? Noura’s Dream (2019) is a movie directed by Hinde Boujima and focuses on many legal and social issues.
For example, Tunisian women are fined and jailed for five years for adultery, but men aren’t, which contradicts the equality between sexes that they take pride in.
Boujima reflects the reality of her society: it still holds a chauvinist view when it comes to women - especially married ones with children - as they’re obliged to tolerate all sorts of exploitation, so that the children are not deprived of their abusive father.
As for extra-marital affairs: it’s acceptable for men but not for women as it brings scandal and justifies revenge in the name of the family’s honour (sadly, these views are shared by other Arab countries).
This is emphasised in the scene where the corrupted policeman asks Jamal what he’s going to do about his wife’s affair and adds ‘If I were you, I’d assault him’ meaning Lassaad.
Hind Boujima’s attention to detail in all aspects of the movie is admirable. From set decoration to the casting of non-actor children, she reflects the reality and the struggle of the working class. Hind Sabry portrays Noura flawlessly, with her clean face, simple clothes, and tired, melancholic gaze that reflects her steady sense of entrapment and unhappiness.
Lotfi Abdelli who plays Jamal also perfects the role of the toxic, self-destructive partner who stops at nothing. The scenes that the two share are brilliant; Noura’s apathetic attitude always irritates him and ends up with an argument between the two.
His use of profane language in one of the scenes was shocking yet very real and convincing. However, Hakim Boumasoudi’s who plays Lassad – mild acting doesn’t leave a lasting impression.
The master scene is set in the police station when Noura is surrounded by Jamal, Lassaad, and the police. Here, she’s a female trapped in a patriarchal society trying to preserve her reputation with a barefaced lie. Every intense scene in the movie makes you sympathise and hope with Noura, no matter how harsh her reality is.
The open ending retains a flicker of hope for Noura and the viewers alike. Noura’s dream is based on the true story of Sania Husni who shared it publicly before being approached by the filmmakers.
Later, she claimed being excluded in the development stage and deprived of all rights.
The movie won The Best Actress prize at El Gouna Film Festival and Best Film at Boudreaux International Film Festival and Carthage Film Festival in 2019.
Noura’s Dream is truthful and exceptional. Highly recommended. Available on Netflix.
Rasha al Raisi
The writer is a certified skills trainer and author of The World According to Bahja