Cinema has often fallen under the spell of the desert and the road. For his second feature after the remarkable Roundabout in My Head, Hassen Ferhani has replaced the temptation to drift into road-movie land by the inevitable need for a stop-over. For the span of the film, he fixes a point on the map of southern Algeria to serve as his address and film title. Within the confined space shrouded in darkness, he takes a distance from his previous documentary to let the burn of a scorching sun seep out from 143 Sahara Street. Here, instead of a roundabout, a shack at a crossroad, where the single and elderly Malika serves omelettes, tinned tuna, bread, coffee and tea to passing travellers and backpackers, and truck drivers who stop by regularly. Presiding over her small table, Malika opens up her house, like a stone offering itself up to the whims of the winds, to the murmur of a distant world amplified by the conversations. Implicitly, the portrait clearly etches an other intersection between reality and its metaphor: that of a country at the side of the road.
Awarded with the Youth Jury Prize, the Audience Prize and a Montgolfière d’Argent at the Festival des 3 Continents, 143 Sahara Street will have been from its picturesque address the rallying point of the prize list of our 41st edition. JB