My father read me Grimm’s Fairy Tales late in my literary development, long after I could sweep through novels with heavier plots on my own. But it gave me comfort to curl up and listen to the implausible tales that sought little more than to entertain and teach the simple lessons of humility and temperance. The dreams that followed his bedtime stories were often sweet.
Such is the case with Masquerades, the romantic comedy that will close this year’s Arabian Sights Film Festival in screenings this Friday and Saturday evening. It’s pure fairy tale fun set in a small dusty town in the Algerian Aures, rather than the typical rolling green pastures of England. The film’s protagonist, Mounir, suffers from the common man’s plague, that of wanting nothing more than the utmost respect of his neighbors. A gardener by trade, he supports his wife, son, and narcoleptic sister Rym, whom the townspeople have deemed unmarriable. In his desperation, Mounir dreams up a wealthy suitor for Rym, which gets the town in a tizzy over wedding preparations. But the man Rym truly loves is just as common as the rest.
The reality that things may never change for these small town people is a subtle undercurrent in this film; a wealthy foreigner may never come and change their fate, they may never leave their dusty little town. Still, Masquerades is thick with farce and it’s nice to lose yourself in the improbable: townspeople having nothing to do but drink coffee and gossip all day and a young woman who drops off to sleep spontaneously.
Despite its charm, though, Masquerades is short on character and plot development, and Mounir never really gets the justice he deserves for his actions. Also, the film has a flaw inherent in almost all fairy tales—the ending just seems too darn neat.
Masquerades screens Friday, October 16 and Saturday October 17 at the National Geographic Society. Saturday’s screening will be followed by a reception. Tickets are $10 for Friday’s screening and $15 for Saturday’s screening and reception.