My Favourite Fabric (Mon Tissu Préféré)
Damascus 2011: the conflict in Syria is just in its beginning stages. Although it is not yet severe, everyone is acutely aware that things will get worse before they get better. The political tension and eventual outbreak of violence serves as the backdrop to My Favourite Fabric, a drama surrounding a young woman struggling to understand and find her place in the world. It’s a journey of self-discovery that’s made intriguing primarily by the background powder keg political situation, but one that fails to inspire with its main plot, making the movie consequently languid and confusing.
As part of a plan to eventually move the entire family to the US, Nahla’s mother (Souraya Baghdadi) has arranged for her to marry Samir (Saad Lostan), a Syrian-born American. But when Samir comes to meet her and the family, he prefers and ultimately chooses her younger, more demure sister Myriam (Mariah Tannoury). Nahla (Manal Issa) withdraws into herself, seemingly wanting to rebel against her given situation but unsure of how to go about doing so. She becomes curious about the new and mysterious upstairs neighbour, a woman we come to know as Madame Jiji (Ula Tabari). As it turns out, Madame Jiji is running a brothel and as Nahla’s curiosity becomes more intense, she plays out fantasies in her mind of a man who is infatuated with her, dipping into a world and a life that’s different, more beautiful, than her own.
Director Gaya Jiji’s first film is clearly wanting to make a statement, to express something about the conflict in Syria and its effect on the women of the country in particular. She uses real footage of the fighting and tries to invoke a parabolic quality by having the story of Joseph from the Qur’an repeated several times over by one of the soldiers who frequents the brothel. However, it becomes increasingly more difficult to differentiate fantasy from reality because the narrative is told from Nahla’s perspective and she progressively reverts more and more into her own dreams and fantasy world. Her tactile interest in certain fabrics offers a weak symbol of her longing for a life where she’s the chosen one and only assists in the dissolution of the plot into something that becomes distractingly vague, otherworldly and abstract in her head-space.
As the repetitive dialogue would suggest, Jiji is clearly trying to say something through her main character, but Nahla is somehow continually stifled by an unknown fear. Perhaps what this film needs is simply more time to incubate.
My Favourite Fabric (Mon Tissu Préféré) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from My Favourite Fabric (Mon Tissu Préféré) here: