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Tunisia’s sexist inheritance laws and anti-polygamy legislation got you down? Then you’ll love Selima (Sana Kassou), the protagonist of Kalthoum Bornaz’s The Other Half of the Sky. Trapped in the home of her unloving father Ali (Younes Fehri), a hard man who loves the memory of his dead wife more than the children she died bearing, Selima is so desperate for independence that she becomes engaged to an already married man, only to find her escape plan threatened by her nation’s one man/one wife policy and her twin brother Selim’s (Mourad Maherzi) claim to two-thirds of her family’s fortune. Like Samira Makhmalbaf’s 1999 Iranian film The Apple, The Other Half of the Sky takes the Muslim world to task for the limited options it offers women, but Bornaz’s mishmash script and turgid editing can’t match the minimalist power of Makhmalbaf’s elegant masterwork. If anything, the director takes too much advantage of Fehri, an able actor who manages to be charming even when verbally and physically abusing his onscreen daughter. It’s refreshing when a filmmaker manufactures sympathy for a misogynistic, misanthropic tyrant, but Bornaz’s kid-glove treatment of Ali does little to advance her film’s feminist agenda.
Friday at 8:30 p.m. Also at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 18. Both showings at Landmark’s E Street Cinema.