Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Tunisian director Nacer Khemir kick-started his multi-award winning desert trilogy with Al-Haymun (The Wanderers of the Desert). This gentle drama begins with a teacher's arrival in a village school situated in the middle of the desert; he assumes control and administration of the charges, and begins to adjust to life in the region, prompting a slice-of-life portrait of the day-to-day in the Middle East. Khemir, however, intercuts these lyrical observations of the school, the teacher and the various students with startling fantasy elements that pull from centuries of Middle Eastern lore and demonstrate influence by The Arabian Nights. As the narrative rolls forward, mythical characters spring from nearby wells and dunes of sand; the local children scuttle through a strange subterranean labyrinth; an odd ship washes up in the desert; and the teacher treks off to an undefined meeting and never returns. Khemir unexpectedly turns his onscreen landscape into the intersection between the routine day-to-day of desert life and centuries of indigenous legend - giving the story itself a shimmering magic realist quality.