Dowaha (Buried Secrets)
Dowaha (Buried Secrets) is the second feature film by Tunisian director Raja Amari. The film follows the story of Aicha, a teenage girl who lives with her spinster sister and older mother in the basement of a crumbling, abandoned mansion in a remote area. The women are hiding from something unknown and live in a different reality of total seclusion, other than the occasional trip into town to sell piecework at a fabric shop. One day, the family's secluded existence is disrupted when a young couple moves into the main part of the mansion. The women remain in their hiding spot and continue living the way they had been without revealing themselves to the couple, but Aicha becomes hopelessly fascinated with them.
The film is a coming of age, feminist thriller that kept me interested the entire way through. It is also a story of the contradictions between tradition and the modern world, and what it means to be a girl and to become a woman. Aicha is desperate for the world of high heels and lipstick, while her mother and sister do everything in their power to keep her from it.
The plot of Dowaha is evocative of classic fairytales, but without the happy ending. Interestingly, it is not the outside world that Aicha must fear, but her mother and sister who are wicked and intent on keeping her (and themselves) prisoner. The film's crumbling palatial setting and its rich, vibrant colors are aesthetically pleasing and give it a feeling of being set in another world during another time.