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Summer in La Goulette, A (DVD Review)

4 Jan, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Street 1/11/11
Kino Lorber
$24.95 DVD
Not rated.
In Arabic and French with English subtitles.

To the old-timers, the beach city of La Goulette, Tunisia, is paradise, but three teenage friends view it as a world away from their desires.

Set in 1967, A Summer in La Goulette is a 1996 comedy/drama about pretty 17-year-olds who ache to depart from their religious and cultural traditions, and long for freedom from their parents’ dated ideals of courtship. Thus, the trio — Meriem (Sonia Mankaï), a Muslim; Gigi (Sarah Pariente), a Catholic; and Tina (Ava Cohen-Jonathan), a Jew — decide to take control of their destinies and “become women.” The best friends make a pact to lose their virginities by Aug. 15, which happens to be the day of the Madonna (Virgin Mary).

However, the girls’ first attempt is foiled and, worst of all, the fathers catch their little angels in a darkened room with three neighborhood boys of the wrong (different) religions. Trust is broken, fingers are pointed, viewpoints are challenged and long-standing friendships between the girls’ dads are ruined, creating strife in the apartment complex where the families live.

Simultaneously, the film takes place as “great tension” mounts in the Middle East, just before the second Arab-Israeli War. The national conflict appears to be a veiled metaphor for the rift among the fathers.

Further complicating matters, the lecherous landlord, Hadj Beji (Gamil Ratib), has eyes for Meriem, who is decades his junior, and offers her father a calculated proposal to make the ingénue his wife.

A Summer in La Goulette presents an interesting dilemma that seems somewhat foreign during a time when, in American society, sexuality is loosely regarded. Nonetheless, writer-director Férid Boughedir does an excellent job of portraying the struggles between elders and youths, and strikes a balance between seriousness and humor.

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