Wanderers of the Desert
A traveling writer and teller of fables, Nacer Khemir here applies his age-old skills to a narrative feature film, the first in his highly-regarded "Desert Trilogy" that includes THE DOVE'S LOST NECKLACE and BAB'AZIZ. Khemir creates an exotic world with WANDERERS OF THE DESERT when a young teacher arrives to take over a village school isolated in the shimmering desert. Reminiscent of the best Iranian films of the 1970s in its use of color and setting, it also has something of the wit, cruelty and ambiguity of the Arabian Nights. Legendary figures materialize out of wells and the desert itself, groups of children hurry through a labyrinth of underground corridors, the teacher is whisked away to a mysterious rendezvous and never returns. Nothing is really explained; Khemir merely shows how legend, tradition and fate hang heavily over this community and he does so with a richly expressive visual style aided by superb use of color. Especially notable is the way the protagonists are always placed against sun-scorched landscapes in which nothing is quite what it seems, like the marvelous moment when everyone gathers around a ship that has mysteriously washed up in the desert sand.