By: Andres Eloy Sereno Hernandez
Edited by: Anthony Zangrillo
Set in Tunisia at the dawn of the Arab Spring, As I Open My Eyes portrays the life of an 18-year-old girl who is trying to reconcile her own persona with everything and everyone that surrounds her; while facing the reality of her country, family and friends.
Farrah, astoundingly played by Baya Medhaffar, is at a crossroads, where she needs to decide what path to follow on her life. On one side, her mother, Hayet (Ghalia Benali), is intensively pushing for Medicine School. But her passion and interest are focused on her music, her band and her love-interest, Bohere (Montassar Ayari). Farrah and Bohere lead the band that combines traditional Tunisian sounds with rock and politically charged lyrics. Farrah’s intrepid and dauntless personality combined with the band’s subversive message makes them a target for the local police. Putting them on the spot, but not in the right way.
The historic moment Tunisia was facing during Ben Ali’s dictatorship is properly represented in the film. During this period, the police was an extended arm of the government. They looked everywhere for enemies of the regime. Torture was indiscriminately used and everybody was looking over their shoulders. In this scenario, Farrah, a free soul, was clearly a threat.
The film possesses a quality that makes the audience connect with the emotional state of each character. It follows a path that goes from a sense of rejoice and pleasure, then despair and emergency, finalizing with a bittersweet mood of relief and deception. It is incredibly well paced and shot. Which makes it very impressive, given that it is Leyla Bouzid’s first feature film, at age 30.
All the performances are remarkable. Baya Medhaffar makes a beautiful, profound and sincerely raw job with the role of Farrah. Ghalia Benali also shines with her compelling representation of Farrah’s mother, Hayet. The chemistry between the main actresses as mother and daughter is undeniable. Both actresses perform so well that for some moments you forget it is a film. The rest of the cast does a flawless job. Every single character, no matter how small the role, was very well performed. Kudos to the casting director.
The music in the film is one of the most gripping and enjoyable elements of the movie. The duo comprised by Iraqi musician Khyam Allami and Ghassen Amami crafted a series of hard-hitting songs that colluded with the entire film to produce this beautiful work of art.
As I Open My Eyes is a film that shows the challenges that an outspoken young woman had to face because she talked and acted according to the freedom of her own mind. This film brings the audience an interesting perspective, complemented by astonishing performances.