An insightful emotional film that will certainly touch the heart of you, 2019 Moroccan drama Adam is an unexpected treasure that came with the opening of the Perth Festival last week.

Among a range of films being featured throughout the festival, Adam has been well received internationally and was screened in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival. It is also one of seven films in the festival which are feature film debuts for their directors.

This is a particularly personal story for director, Maryam Touzani, as it is based on her family’s own experience sheltering an unwed pregnant woman. Despite being in one of the most liberal Muslim countries in the world, with laws passed in 2004 being internationally applauded for advancing the rights of its women, unmarried mothers are still treated as outcasts by society and their families. Exploring this world, Adam revolves around two women, Samia and Abla. Samia is a young unwed pregnant woman wandering the streets of Casablanca looking for shelter and work, while Abla is a widowed mother running a small neighbourhood bakery. Abla takes in Samia and allows her to work in the bakery, upsetting the quiet routine of the house, bringing new life, humour and breaking down the walls Abla has built around herself since losing her husband in an accident.

You’re launched straight into the setting, following Samia’s struggles on the street and despite the foreignness of the setting you understand the characters very quickly. Spoken in Arabic throughout and subtitled in English, the film is the better for it. Dubbing could not replace the passionate performances of the two lead actresses. The story travels from incredibly emotional and at times nail grippingly intense to quiet and thoughtful as it explores loss, rebirth and sacrifice. It shows the pressures of judgement from society and the strength it takes to be compassionate in spite of it. Abla dodges questions and has to be clever in deflecting the suspicions of her gossiping neighbours to protect her family. Despite Samia’s challenges and the terrible choice before her, the soon-to-be mother shows she still has a sense of humour, becoming a source of joy while joking and bonding with the daughter.

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The bonds between mothers is a key theme throughout the film as Abla and Samia grow closer, giving more emotional weight to Samia’s ultimate decision of whether to keep the child or give it up for adoption, a decision she does not fully decide upon until the very end. Giving up the newborn means never knowing his fate but in keeping him he would be an outcast as well her. It explores these choices with very human characters who falter, question and rage against the situation they’re in but ultimately display extraordinary strength. It is a very emotionally confronting film at times but ultimately, I think hopeful.

Perth Festival runs from February 7 to March 1 with a range of international films, live performances, music, literature and arts events. Adam will be showing as part of the Lotterywest Films at Somerville Auditorium from February 24 to March 1. Head to the Perth Festival website for the full program or to purchase tickets.


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