Monday, June 29, 2015

Alyam alyam / Oh the Days! (2015 digital restoration by The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project, 4K scan) introduced by Ahmed El Maanouni

Alyam alyam. Click to enlarge.
آليام آليام / Oh i giorni! / Alyam alyam - oi niitä aikoja (Yle TV2, 10.8.1982). MA 1978. D+SC+DP: Ahmed El Maanouni - 16 mm - sepmag. ED: Martine Chicot. M: Nass el Ghiwane. C: gli abitanti di Toualàa (Oulad Ziane) nella regione di Casablanca, in particolare: Abdelwahad e la sua famiglia, Tobi, Afandi Redouane e Ben Brahim. P: Rabii Films. DCP. 90 min. [not b&w] but Colour. Arab and French [French in the school sequence] version with English subtitles. From: The Film Foundation.
    Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project in collaboration with Ahmed El-Maanouni. Restoration carried out by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory; 4K scan performed at Eclair laboratories.
    World Cinema Project website notes on the restoration: The restoration of Alyam, Alyam used the 16 mm A/B rolls original camera and sound negatives preserved at Eclair Laboratories, where the 4K scan was performed. Restoration - carried out at Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata - succeeded in stabilizing the image and bringing the original chromatic qualities to light. Director Ahmed El Maanouni supervised the color grading process and approved the final restoration.
    Viewed at Sala Scorsese (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato) (The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project) with e-subtitles in Italian, 29 June 2015. 88 min
    Introduced by Ahmed El Maanouni.

Ahmed El Maanouni (Il Cinema Ritrovato, catalogue and website): "Alyam Alyam is a film about shattered dreams and the circumstances leading up to that point; about the shaking of the traditional social structure; about the strength born of desperation and the unrelenting dissipation of lost generations. This is stressed from the first notes of the opening music, by the strangely empty building frame that is slowly filled with people, by the village space, by the silence of the wandering woman who smokes, until the last shot of the film, when a crowd appears from behind a deserted hill. The dreams of a society growing smaller, unable to hold on to the resources that could help it survive, are mirrored by the mother’s helpless prayer, “I need your shadow, I need your light, I need your face”."

"I simply wanted to show the farmers’ faces, to honor their sounds and their images, their silences and their words, and that’s why I chose not to interfere and to opt for deliberately restrained composition, movement and mise-en-scène. I tried to minimize the camera’s ability to distort, make a point, or discriminate."

"I wanted each aspect to be presented equally. I did not look for spectacular beauty, but made an effort to let the imagery of the rural world speak through abstraction and silence."

"Almost 40 years later, when I watch Alyam Alyam again, I am still comfortable with my aesthetic choices and my intuitions, but I cannot avoid noticing how, from beginning to end – from the opening shots with the blood shed by the camels, to the crowd of peasants appearing from behind the hills – it all seemed to presage the current tragedy experienced by the thousands whose broken dreams lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean, on which the voice of Nass El Ghiwane’s Larbi Batma seems to strangely resonate:"

"“Alyam Alyam, oh, those were the days! Why are you crossed? Who changed your course? You were once sweet like milk, now you’re bitter. I love all men as if they were my brothers. My brothers have crushed me. I will silence my pain and let my love be loud”."
(Ahmed El Maanouni)

AA: It was a privilege to see this exquisite movie presented by Ahmed El Maanouni, the director-cinematographer himself, a man of fine personality, a carrier of culture. He told how Alyam alyam got a good start in the Un certain regard section at Cannes but that it has not been too much seen in Morocco as it is "too real, too rooted in reality". He told about the attention he paid to the handcraft, architecture, and clothes in his film. Shot on 16 mm, with the sound on a separate tape, the 2015 digital restoration was performed at 4K, supervised by Ahmed El Maanouni.

Music is important in Alyam alyam, starting from the drums during the credits sequence displaying old Moroccan paintings. There is also an "Alyam alyam" song, the lyrics of which are important. We hear muezzins ("God is great"), communal sing-alongs, a dirge sung at a grave, and a woman's tragic song about the agony of love ("see dear what has become of me / my love has suffocated me") (also intentionally comic).

The semi-documentary Alyam alyam belongs to the noble tradition of Flaherty in recording an entire traditional way of life on the brink of modernity, just before it is about to disappear. The approach is realistic and subtly lyrical. There is still a spirit of life in harmony, a feeling of popular community. We visit a slaughterhouse, we see women carrying jugs on the tops of their heads, boys spying on women in the grass, cooking in the kitchen, children visiting a French-speaking school, little children playing agriculture games, fetching water from the well, cows grazing in the grass, spinning a yarn, baking bread, harvesting, washing carrots and beetroot and packing them for transport, harvesters, irrigating fields, taking a bus to the doctor. An entire cycle of hard work in traditional agriculture is covered.

At the same time we witness young boys getting restless and impatient in living in poverty. Their main goal is to secure a contract of employment in France. They see no future in their own country and look forward to starting a new life in Europe.

The approach to life in Alyam alyam is sober and reverent. The tempo is relaxed and unhurried. There are fine sequences that are effective without tensions but there may be issues with dynamics, structure, and duration.

Alyam alyam is an image-driven movie. Without being self-consciously aesthetic it has a refined sense of composition and a beautiful colour palette. We see air vibrating in the heat, we see a rich register of warm nuances in harmony with the colour world of the old paintings on display in the credit sequence.

The digital copy: I have been a critical observer of warm colour and nature footage in digital. In Alyam alyam these difficult issues have been solved beautifully.


Yassine Sliman said...

hello where can I get to watch this movie? It's been years that I am looking for a copy and I couldn't find it anywhere

Antti Alanen said...

Dear Yassine Silman,
Please try Mr. Ahmed El-Maanouni, or The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, or Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna / L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory.
Alyam alyam is a wonderful film.
Antti Alanen