Thursday, October 28, 2010

Le Grand Voyage

What starts out as generational conflict in this movie, ends in understanding, solemnity and grace. The movie meanders through Europe with the father and the young son cramped in a car over 3000 miles. The cramping forces lifestyles, beliefs and life skills to collide. There's really no clear winner. It all adds up in the end as experience: experience of multiple layers of life. For those interested in understanding Islam, this movie offers a generous and gentle outlook, without being pushy about the agenda. It's a coming of age story for the young son, his dismissive and rebellious nature turning to openness for receiving more ways of life.

The route taken by the father and son goes from Provence, France through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan before reaching Saudi Arabia. The film was actually shot in some of these countries, namely France, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Most scenes that were set in the Middle East were shot in Morocco. However, some scenes involving the two principal actors were actually shot in Mecca. While the Saudi Arabian government had previously permitted documentary crews to shoot in Mecca, this was the first fiction feature permitted to shoot during the Hajj. The film's director, Ismaƫl Ferroukhi, said that while shooting in Mecca, "no one looked at the camera; people didn't even seem to see the crew -- they're in another world."

Reda: Why didn't you fly to Mecca? It's a lot simpler.
The Father: When the waters of the ocean rise to the heavens, they lose their bitterness to become pure again...
Reda: What?
The Father: The ocean waters evaporate as they rise to the clouds. And as they evaporate they become fresh. That's why it's better to go on your pilgrimage on foot than on horseback, better on horseback than by car, better by car than by boat, better by boat than by plane.
The Father: When I was a child, my father, God rest his soul, set out on a mule. He was a brave man. Everyday, I'd climb the hill so I could see the horizon. I wanted to be the first to see him come home. I've learnt a lot from this journey.
Reda: Me too.

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