La nouba des femmes du Mont Chenoua (The Nouba of the Women of Mount Chenoua)

Assia Djebar

This film, in the form of a nouba, is dedicated, posthumously, to Hungarian musician Béla Bartók, who had come to a nearly mute Algeria to study its folk music in 1913; and to Yaminai Oudai, known as Zoulikha, who organised a resistance network in the city of Cherchell and its mountains in 1955 and 1956. She was arrested in the mountains when she was in her forties. Her name was subsequently added to the list of the missing. Lila — the protagonist in this film — could be Zoulikha’s daughter. The six other talking women of Chenoua recount fragments of their lives. The Nouba of the Women is their moment. But the Nouba is also the Nouba of the Andalusian music in its particular rhythmic movements.

La Nouba borrows the structure of the nouba, a five-part traditional Andalusian music form, to tell the story of a woman who returns to the town of her childhood fifteen years after the violent War of Independence. Reading the history of her country as written in the stories of women’s lives, La Nouba des Femmes du Mont Chenoua is an engrossing portrait of speech and silence, memory and creation, and a tradition where the past and present coexist.


Arabic spoken, English soft-titled

Print courtesy of the Centre Algérien de la Cinématographie