Sofia Alaoui, 2020 Short Film Jury Prize Winner sundance film festivaldebuting her function, animal world, January 20. The film stars scene-stealing Oumaïma Barid in an emotionally transformative role that was a festival standout. It packs stunning visuals, thanks to a haunting score by cinematographers Noé Bach and Amine Bouhafa. A love letter to existential investigation and class dissection, Alaoui’s film is mysterious and imaginative in the best way a project can be.
Ito (Oumaïma Barid) is the pregnant wife of successful businessman Amin (Mehdi Debhi), who dreams of a peaceful day away from his arrogant family. When she finally gets her wish, Itto spends her days dancing and eating sweets in the ornately decorated halls without being judged by her elite mother-in-law. But when the government declared a state of emergency over the ominous encounter, Ito longed to be reunited with his family. Struggling to find his way back to Amine, Ito finds help in the most unlikely of places. In doing so, she unexpectedly encountered a phenomenon that set her on a path of experiential liberation.
Alaoui creates an experience that feels hypnotic, unsettling and even uplifting. With Itto, she intelligently explores the conundrum of faith and purpose by deconstructing the connection between religion and human nature. A standout sequence that sees Itto fend for herself after a neighbor’s betrayal lands her in trouble, thus sparking the problems she’s about to face. Encounters with strangely behaving animals, large clouds and green lightning – these are just some of the experiences Itto will have to survive to save her unborn child. Along the way, the journey tests her perseverance and ability to survive.
Alaoui’s script also begins to test Itto’s faith, as several encounters drive her away from the suburb of Khourigba, where Amine is located. Soon, with the help of friendly stranger Fouad Oughaou, she must rely on her wits and resourcefulness in lieu of money. His indifference is only due to Ito’s insistence on using money to make everything work in her favor. In these moments, the screenplay deftly examines class bias, reminding viewers that money isn’t everything. Likewise, it elegantly reveals how a dangerous reliance on luxury leads to the abandonment of identity.
theme moment animal world Intersection is why Alaoui’s ambitious feature is worth a look. While it’s unclear how this ambiguity came about, and what the intruder’s intentions were, the film presents a beautiful character study of a desperate woman who ultimately seeks meaning in her newfound disorienting life. To that end, Barid delivers an excellent portrayal in which she intricately calculates her nuanced responses to exemplify the existential crisis her character is going through. After the initial viewing, her performance is sure to hold the viewer’s attention and will likely keep people watching again.
A powerful display of inspiring and bold storytelling, animal world How to make a good movie with ambiguity and character growth. Sofia Alaoui’s inventive sci-fi debut combines hypnotic and inspiring examination of elitism with challenging beliefs and goals. It doesn’t always work in the show, but the storytelling is sincere in that it portrays its subjects while questioning human needs. If, in the unlikely event that humans ceased to exist, the film’s message of “everything will be fine” is most comforting.
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animal world Premieres January 20 at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. This movie is 91 minutes long and has not been rated yet.