Tunisian director Nacer Khemir (The Wanderers of the Desert, The Dove’s Lost Necklace) rounds out a trilogy of films that feature the desert in a central role with this ode to Sufi Islamism. The titular blind dervish (Parviz Shahinkhou)—a practitioner known for poverty and austerity—wanders the desert with his granddaughter Ishtar (Maryam Hamid) in search of a gathering held every 30 years, guided only by faith. To keep her entertained along the way, he tells the story of a prince who gave up his kingdom to sit by a pool of water and contemplate his soul.
Along the way, they meet other travelers who also tell stories. Osman (Mohamed Grayaa) longs to return to the bottom of the well where he discovered a beautiful palace. And Zaid (Nessim Kahloul) searches for the woman who fled from him after his songs reminded her of her father.
Although beautifully and meditatively filmed, Bab’Aziz’s form mirrors the actions of its characters, wandering the desert and dancing among the tales, returning to the present-day story for Ishtar, with her wise, old face, to say, “What happened next?” In the prince’s case, nothing. In the others’, not much more.
Cast: Parviz Shahinkhou, Maryam Hamid, Nessim Kahloul, Mohammed Grayaa and Golshifteh Farahani
Director/Screenwriter: Nacer Khemir
Genre: Drama; Arabic-language, subtitled
Running time: 96 min.
Release dates: February 8, 2008 NY, February 22 LA, spring exp.