Ali In Wonderland/ Ali aux pays des merveilles (Djouhra Abouda, Alain Bonnamy, France/Algeria, 1975)

We talk Ali in Wonderland (1975), currently on MUBI. It’s an avant-garde political documentary directed by Djouhra Abouda, and Alain Bonnamy. Its  play with form is intended to punch the spectator into awareness, and thus very much part of the Deconstructionist zeitgeist of its time. We discuss the use of split screen, distortions, slow motion on beat, juxtapositions; its rendering of historical memory; the way the film connects colonialism with migration. It’s a work you’d perhaps now expect to find more readily in a gallery rather than in a cinema, like an installation, and worth seeing for many reasons, which we discuss in the podcast below.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

Writing in Le Monde on the 3rd of January, Tahar Ben Jelloun described the film as:

‘Ali is a film on time and wear. The derision and melancholy of history. The directors well demonstrate the political link between colonialism and migration. It’s not a militant film. It’s something else: a look which derails the quotidian and returns to the misery and exploitation, of which migrant workers are the victims, an element of the fantastic. The real, edited and displayed, is more powerful and surprising than fiction; it is also more violent than political discourse (translation is my my own and possibly thus imperfect).

Ali au pays des merveilles est un film sur le temps et l’usure. La dérision et la mélancolie de l’histoire. Les auteurs montrent bien le lien politique entre la colonisation et l’émigration. Ce n’est pas un film militant. C’est autre chose : un regard qui détourne le quotidien et redonne à la misère et à l’exploitation dont sont victimes les travailleurs émigrés, les dimensions du fantastique. Le réel donné et découpé est encore plus fort, plus surprenant que la fiction : il est aussi plus violent que le discours politique”

Tahar Ben Jelloun , Djouhra et Ali au pays des merveilles, Le Monde, 3 janvier 1977

José Arroyo

2 thoughts on “Ali In Wonderland/ Ali aux pays des merveilles (Djouhra Abouda, Alain Bonnamy, France/Algeria, 1975)

  1. Mubi has done us a great favour to make this film available and good to hear you discussing it. The film was in fact directed by Djouhra Abouda and Alain Bounamy and not Rachid Boudjedra and Ahmed Rachedi. They directed a later film, Ali au pays des mirages. Something that struck me were the scenes shot in Algerian-run cafes that showed scopitones in action. This technology (a precursor to the music video it might be said) existed in such cafes long after it had died a death elsewhere. The Algerian musical films shown on the scopitones are quite remarkable. In fact, they combine precisely the images of the building site and glamorous disco effects that the film itself mimics. May I commend this marvellous film about these musical movies to everyone:https://nedjma-djazairiya.com/memoire-emigree-scopitones-arabes/

    1. Thanks so much. What a mistake to make! I’ll crrect it once I regain access to my computer. Many thanks for the info and we shall look out for the film.

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