Sunday, 25 February 2018

I Still Hide To Smoke

I’d be surprised if this Borderlines came up with a film as relevant, shocking, courageous and timely as the one I saw last night at The Courtyard in Hereford. I’m sure I won’t see one for which, in its first incarnation as a play, the director was doused with petrol and had a lit cigarette flicked at her in a mercifully failed attempt to burn her to death. Rayhana Obermeyer’s I Still Hide To Smoke, set in a hammam in Algeria, is more than a revelation - it’s an urgent and necessary film about women, freedom, religion, sexuality, men and liberty. It has the backing of Costa-Gavras, echoes of Nell Dunn’s ‘Steaming’, and the lineage of Aristophanes ‘Lysistrata’ - not inappropriate for a film, through force of circumstance, mainly shot in Greece. The strikingly passionate performance of Hiam Abbas, an Israeli Palestinian actress most recently seen in Blade Runner 2024, brings to mind Brecht’s Mother Courage, whilst the final images of the film - countless black headscarves floating away on the wind - are a more than timely prophecy of the hijab protest we are now seeing in Tehran. Alas, last night’s screening of I Still Hide To Smoke was the only BFF screening, and the official YouTube trailer -

- isn’t, in my view, all that good. Anne Cottringer’s excellent BFF programme notes are available online, but for anyone who’s interested - and that should mean everyone - the French distributors press kit is a very thorough and beautifully produced summary of the film and its principal players. You can find it here. I urge you to seek out this brave and important film.

Stephen Hopkins

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