a film by Mehdi Ben Attia
2009 | 93 mins | France - Tunisia
›› The String - Le Fil
an uplifting story of sexual acceptance.
The String by Mehdi Ben Attia Depicting a world of tolerance largely removed from Tunisian reality, this uplifting story of sexual acceptance is as beautifully shot, as it contains a plethora of emotions.

For frequently at odds with his overbearing mother, but reluctantly agreeing to move back into the family home following the death of his father, handsome Malik seeks refuge in his work, alongside sampling the services of the local rough trade. Not that mother Sara is officially aware of his sexual preference. Unlike seemingly everyone else around him, cousins included, let alone his business partner; a joyous lesbian who having found the one has set her sights on parenthood with Malik as the paperwork father of her child to be. All of which pleases mother dearest, until that is she chances upon her son in bed with in-house handyman Bilal; an Arabic hunk who Malik has clearly taken a serious liking to. As her dreams of the perfect wedding meet with the reality of her sonsí sexuality, can all three work it out to live happily together under the Tunisian sun?

The String by Mehdi Ben Attia With a white pavilion styled house right out of a tropical paradise and here cue palm trees at the front and the rushing waves of the Mediterranean sea at the back, director and co-writer Mehdi Ben Attia has created a gay utopia of sun-drenched shores. Yet not everything is as perfect as it seems. For Malik has a history of string-like anxiety attacks, his return home having seen the re-emergence of his troubled mind, being only too well aware of the Islamic attitude to homosexuality that saw him depart for France years earlier.

To that end, Antonin Stahly aka Antonin Stahly-Vishwanadan as Malik and Salim Kechiouche of Le Clan credit as Bilal wonderfully portray the burgeoning emotions of the homosexual heart. Only and as expected, it is Italian icon Claudia Cardinale who takes this feature to a whole new level as the mother from heaven / hell, doting on her son one minute, but and with shades of Doña Herlinda and Her Son equally longing to have the best of both worlds; grandchild included.

True the string metaphor is overplayed and yes the ending is just too good to be true, but it is well-executed throughout, as we come to witness Bilal's transition from handyman / servant to an inner member of the family. Yet look below the surface and you will see that Attia has added a series of poignant comments here; from views on traditional modesty to living in a Muslim country in which same-sex activity is still illegal, subject to imprisonment. All of which makes this pure Tunisian gay escapism, as strong performances, coupled with lush eye-candy and the gorgeous location make for a winning combination. Need more be said?

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - bare-arsed cheek. 
Overall - file under ... 4 stars. 
DVD available 18.10.2010 as part of the TLA Releasing UK catalogue
starring: Claudia Cardinale, Antonin Stahly, Salim Kechiouche, Driss Ramdi, Ramla Ayari, Aly M'Rabet,
Abir Bennani, Rihab Mejri, Hosni Khaled, Anissa Bediri, Djaouida Tamzali Vaughan, Hakim Boumsaoudi
and Nejia Zemni as Malik's Grandmother. With the participation of Mohamed Grayaa
as the fool on the beach and Lotfi Dziri in the role of Abdelaziz.
Copyright 2010 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #319
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