On Monday, the impressive Tunisian film “Second Life” (Gadha) had its first world premiere at the 43rd Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) as part of the festival’s Horizons of Arab Cinema competition.
Regarding the synopsis of “A Second Life,” Gadha (12) happens one day to be the victim of a car accident. He undergoes surgery. Penniless, his mother, Borkana, is helped by Malika and Moez, a benevolent couple that offers to pay for the hospital fees and provides the destitute family with a roof.
Gadha meets Oussama, Malika, and Moez’s child (11) who is recovering from a kidney transplant. A strong friendship is made between the two boys. However, Gadha finds out haphazardly the secret of his family’s new standard of living. He is devastated.
The film beautifully introduces to the audience a new universal reading for the suffering of children, and families in the world of war-torn countries, separation, death, illegal immigration, and poverty.
It re-tells the story of Alan Kurdi but in reverse! The main protagonists are Gadha, and Ousama who feel that there is a strong bond that connects them, trying to figure it out!
According to “Second Life” director Anis Lassoued, the photo of Alan’s body on the beach inspired him to think of what would the story be like if the father died, and the child survived! How would children react or behave in the absence of their fathers, and how those scorching feelings of anguish, loss, exile would impact the children’s views towards the world.
Renowned Tunisian actor Jamel Laroui explained that the film deeply sheds the light on the crisis of the whole Arab world. Illegal immigration and feeling loss is today’s crisis, and ironically, the Western countries which used to make use of the fortunes of the Arab world through colocalization, are rejecting the presence of those poor, and desperate refugees and immigrants who all they want to have a better life.
Therefore, pure childish emotional burst, anger, sensitivity, and fragility are amusingly and harmoniously scripted in expressive visual images, haunting auditory effects, and catchy facial expressions by actors.
There is heavy usage of eye contact between the stars of the film as children can’t hide their feelings or views, they always can express them, and show them boldly in various forms.
Shifting between different forms of water and drowning stresses the point that floating on the surface of the world is the main concept of the feature. At the beach, the water is the witness for all souls that existed on the shore, and for those who were long gone, and forgotten inside its heart.
On the other hand, the pool gives the audience two different connotations: happiness and joy, so the audience can see the bright reflection of the water’s color, while the other when Gadha needs to escape, he drowns himself inside the water, so it reflects a sense of negativity and solitary.
One of the employed techniques that enrich the concepts of the film is the sound! There is a harmonious sound-silence game through the events, as the sound is an extra actor inside the film, not only an employed technique.
In addition, the depth and the focus on giving every sound the required space, and timing attract the audience to not only enjoy the image but also the sound, the director added.
Moving to the open world of symbols, the director depended on several symbols to enhance the aesthetic side of the film, mainly the archery which is Ousama, the boy who belongs to the upper class, although it is not a popular game in Tunisia, it is a form of fashion among high classes.
Lassoued explained that the relation between the bow and the arrow mirrors the relationship between the son, and the family, and the nature of their contradicted points of view.
The process of pushing, and pulling between the two items represents how sometimes the actions of the parents can drive the sons into twisted directions, for example when Borkana sold her son’s kidney for guaranteeing the family a good quality of life.
To sum up, the film presents sensitive issues in a beautiful, and attractive form. The shifting between the eyes of the son, Gadha, and the mother reflects that there is a huge gap between them both.
The lights, and sounds game enthusiast the audience to interact more with the events of the film, and dive more into the worlds of loss, and trials to approach the world of Gadha who can be parallel with James Joyce’s “Arabi” boy who found himself inside a huge market with Arabic identity that totally differs from his Irish roots.
Both boys question the most prominent, and heaviest issues from their poor experience, a naive vision of life, fragility which may help the elders to solve the issues from the children’s shoes, they may have a bridge.
So, closing the film with Gibran Khalil Gibran’s quotation: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself” is the best finale for the film and best summary.