"You can see the poverty on people's faces," sneers one character in this Moroccan comedy-drama. Yes, but director Faouzi Bensaïdi sees something else, too: the indomitable spirit of a poor but proud society that refuses to be crushed by an oppressive regime. Set in a remote village during the month of Ramadan, his episodic yarn centres on Mehdi (Fouad Labied), an eight-year-old lad whose father has been jailed for inciting a strike. Mehdi thinks he's away in Paris, a lie that gives him spurious glamour in the eyes of classmates already resentful he's been chosen to guard his teacher's precious chair.
This humble piece of furniture acquires a near-mythical significance in Bensaïdi's feature debut, changing hands, suffering sabotage and even provoking a riot. Nods to Fellini, Kiarostami and Emir Kusturica add further texture to a slow but enthralling glimpse at an unfamiliar culture.