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Movie Review: The struggle and obstacles to be young under censorship in “As I Open My Eyes”



By Roger Costa

In a delicate pace, this small gem from Tunisia kicks off calmly introducing its protagonist and her aspirations. Young 18-year old Farah lives with her parents, under restricted religious and moral traditions which prohibits her from doing what she likes the most- singing. She’s the talented vocalist of a band formed of her love interest and friends, performing psychedelic rock songs exposing their revolt against the system.

As the story unfolds, first time director Leyla Bouzid demonstrates an incredible coordination with the urgency of the issues related to freedom, youth, revolt and repression, giving the film aspects of a political thriller, an anxiously touching account of a social problem affecting young lives whom need to set their voices free.


The narrative efficiently extracts Farah’s silent revolt, and eventually emotional discharges as she performs on stage and delves into a personal journey to discover herself on a more mature level. In fact, the formula is a coming of age story, where the girl is trying to set her own freedom amidst the family traditions and political conflicts of her country. But the story doesn’t just rely on those aspects; it goes much further as it investigates the needs of a young generation in expressing themselves and finding their place in the world. Farah, along with her friends, are willing to defy the rules and standards in order to accomplish their art, their social movement, and basically, their need for joy and acceptance.


As her mother is advised of her musical and bohemian behaviors, she threatens Farah, creating risky situations and doubts whether she should go on with the band or abandon it. The director focuses in Farah’s relationships, such as the impositions with the mother, the comprehensive father, and the prejudice around society, with freshness and honesty, extracting naturally fascinating performances from the entire cast, but especially from Baya Medhaffar, playing Farah, whom wins the audience’s heart from the first moment she smiles on camera.


Music plays a fundamental role, as the motivational element for the film and its protagonist, presenting contagiously attractive tunes, political and social observations on their contemporaneous world.

Perhaps the Best Film shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, “As I Open My Eyes” is an amazing surprise, very warm and suspenseful, that exposes the injustice and battle of a system and youngsters trying to survive.

AS I OPEN MY EYES (A Kino Lorber Film. Opens Friday, September 9th at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas NYC)


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