Red Soil is naturally a very sober film because it presents a deadly serious issue. A variety of topics, small and large, are covered and criticised – including corruption, greed, selfishness, political bias, needless bureaucracy – but each of these elements revolves around people’s flippancy and ignorance in the face of urgent environmental dangers. In a story based on actual events, troubled nurse Nour (Zita Hanrot) finds a new job through her father Slimane (Sami Bouajali) at his chemical plant located in their small home town, but she quickly discovers that the site is leaking toxic waste into a nearby forest, causing fatal danger to civilians and the plant’s workers.
Nour’s investigation takes a drastic turn as she discovers that the managers at the plant, including Slimane, have willingly let this happen for their own short-term interests, and it ultimately creates a rift between her and her entire family. This drama is competently handled, although it’s never quite emotional, perhaps because every character aside from Nour is too unintelligent and/or arrogant to empathise with. Most scenes involve the ever-calm Nour being yelled at and shut down for her genuine concern by folk who, though they had their reasons for being initially hesitant, are unreasonably closed off to her revelatory findings, even to the point of raging and swearing at her. There’s an unrealistic lack of nuance among the plant’s staff in terms of opinion: they want to keep the plant open and themselves employed, no matter the cost, even if it means illness and death. Nour’s levelheaded worry is exclusive only to her, with her colleagues at times feeling overly naive or scornful, and thus, two-dimensional.
Director and co-writer Farid Bentoumi deserves credit for not politicising potentially divisive subject matter. The heart of the matter is reached early on and maintained, never putrefied by dogmatic partisan speeches or self-righteous messaging. The film has only one clear message that is thankfully human and inclusive, regardless of political belief, and that is to forgo one’s personal interest, and do whatever one can when health and lives are at stake.
Red Soil is released digitally on demand on 16th August 2021.
Watch the trailer for Red Soil here: