The Source Review

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With no running water and no electricity, life in Leila's (Bekhti) village in the North African mountains is a constant cycle of errands and trips to the well. When one one of the village's womenfolk suffers a miscarriage making the dusty ascent to the spring, Leila calls on the women to refuse their husbands sex until they pull their weight.


Women: want to get your way? Go on a sex strike, suggests this feminist comedy-drama. Inspired by a true story, it sees Middle Eastern village women campaigning for running water — they’re the ones who have to walk miles to fetch it, often while pregnant. Meanwhile the men sit drinking tea and quoting the Koran. Enough’s enough: the ladies decide to withhold bedroom favours, but their strike brings ridicule, political rifts and abuse as progressive ringleader Leila (Leïla Bekhti) comes under pressure from other villagers. It’s a little overlong but beautifully performed and shot with a compelling message. It’s funny, too: highlights include the women dancing and singing ribald songs about their strike to oblivious tourists. Quite the cultural eye-opener.

Romanian director Mihaileanu's film is a strange beast: a gritty rom-com with a message that sometimes plays like a North African Made In Dagenham, but occasionally dips into much tougher terrain. Topical and worthwhile, it deserves to find an audience - even if you might struggle to catch it in Saudi Arabia.