From a 2009 play of the director, Rayhana Obermeyer put Hiam Abbas to lead all of the cast to be locked in a bathing inn. The bath becomes a closed place for women. They don’t just talk about politics, smoke, talk about religion, debate with one another, and so on. But, they just want to close themselves from reality. The only way to escape from such conditions of terror outside the bath is to be locked, deliberately, inside. Don’t ever come out whether there is so much violence inside because of a political confrontation, provocative between people, etc. In essence, all of these women from all ages can only hold, and also release all, the problems that exist outside. Never bring outside problems into the inside.
In the human condition theory, freedom is innate. For women as well, especially those who live in “closed” and “terror” countries, there is a certain dehumanization without a utopia-alike to the surrounding. French-Algerian director, Rayhana, directed her feature debut titled “I Still Hide to Smoke”, a self-aware title about hiding from reality. Rayhana only shot the movie in one place, namely the bath. Just like the original play, this movie is like a real drama performance that takes place directly in the place. All of the characters feel forced to surrender to all kinds of shocking moments, acceptable, misery, abuse, misunderstanding, and religious differences.
Hiam Abbass as Fatima is a manager of a Turkish bath. Every day, dozens of women come to cleanse their bodies. On the other hand, they told each other about the past, secrets, first-time sex, fear of the outside world, politics, and so on. They carry out conversations between the characters naked, while they cleanse the specific people. The context of the movie is that people outside never know what happens in the bath. It’s not important to them but we, as the audience, witnesses a dynamic, especially women, about diversity and fascinating people about their point of view with men and others.
“I Still Hide to Smoke” was taken place in 1995 where the Islamist regime took hold of Algeria at the time. We witnessed the impact of the incident both collaterally, literally, and contextually. In the ensemble piece of the film lies on how each sequence, we see how all of these women try to survive, indirectly, while the historic event is taking place outside. They are very attached to reality but they, on the other hand, are comfortable with their situation. It’s better to hide and surrender to the conflict-filled situation in this bath than to be directly executed outside.
Each character has a problem each. There is a widow who tied to a terrorist member, a girl who is pregnant can do nothing but wait, a young woman who has just divorced, and a young woman who has just married. There isn’t a connection between stories because you only understand how they feel about their stories and problems. The only thing they can do is humiliating themself. They are also not aware if they fight an injustice especially the ending of the movie. It’s about a reverse journey of life, about a common thing but so uncommon. They are tightly bound and sandwiched with the world.
This movie has a lot of explicit content but contextually and symbolically. One of my favorite comments about the movie is when it comes to one of the Muslim women in the bath and the fundamentalist victim of such a regime. When both of them appear together, it always ends as the most shattered and vengeful sequences you have ever seen. Even though it’s not about alienating yourself from the outside world, there is a central story. A 16-year-old girl is secretly pregnant and the people in the bath never knew. Fatima tried her best to save the child and her baby. It’s only a matter of time before one of the local clerics breaks the bath door. It leads and forces them to unite against these people.
The first ten minutes of the movie is one of the best aspects and depiction of reality and the movie. We see Fatima’s husband raping Fatima. Unintentionally, she almost died because of an explosion of terror from a car. She then came into the game and smoked. It’s one of the brutally and aggressively representations of what happens in the countries in the Middle East there, how they treat people both children and women. Thinking about the present situation, we always think that Islam and terrorism are two words that can never be separated. But, this movie is trying to give in-depth layers about what happens to those. It’s not just about the terrorist but where did the terrorist come from.
The film demonstrates a tragedy and it’s full of awareness of the importance of the movie as well. The movie conveys well to the message though, not many people would just digest like such a which. Rayhana’s direction also endows all of the elements and creates a stem of its trademark. One thing I don’t really like, in a funny way, about the movie is the climax. The scene when these female characters come out against the rebel is hilarious. The slow-mo edition kind of ruined it, like I always see it in memes and internet videos. And to be honest, I get it what happens really. This movie gives a lot of details about the context of the political act. It’s a terrifying depiction, from the perspective of closed people, about the effect of such terrors.