It's Zano who has the dreamier outlook. Naima is up for an adventure, but he's the one who feels that something is missing in their lives, that they're somehow disconnected from who they are and they must seek out their heritage. They hop trains without tickets, hang out and camp with gypsies, and seek out music and dancing wherever they go. Zano is rarely without his Walkman, and Naima will find any excuse to put on a little dance show, even in the middle of a field.
In Spain the pair stops to make some money picking fruit and sneak off to make sweet love in the orchard (they're easily distracted by sex). Finally making it to a Spanish port to stow away on a ship, they discover they've hopped onto the wrong boat and are headed for Morocco rather than Algeria. No problem, thinks Zano, it's another adventure.
As they cross Morocco by train, by bus, and on foot, they encounter lots of Algerians heading in the other direction, most of whom are baffled by why the two French citizens would want to head to Algiers, especially since it's recently been damaged by an earthquake (a shocking development that writer/director Tony Gatliff had to work into the plot). Once in the capital city, Zano is buzzing with excitement, and when he tracks down the apartment he lived in as a child (until his parents died in a car accident), he has a moving meltdown surrounded by Naima and the women who live there now.
As for Naima, she's less enthused, especially when angry Muslim women around town demand that she cover herself up. The free-spirited woman can't stand being shrouded. Her view of her home country isn't what she expected it would be.
Exploring Algiers with an old family friend, Zano and Naima eventually find their way to a party that slowly turns into an orgiastic drum circle of music and hot rhythms. The camera moves right into the center of the circle and joins in as Zano and Naima hurl themselves into the festivities, with Naima ending up thrashing around on the floor in a musical trance. It's a thrilling scene and one of many Gatliff inserts throughout the film to make powerful connections between a culture and its music.
With a title like Exiles, you know what issues are on Gatliff's mind. What do emigrants take with them? What do they live behind? How important is it to return? This drama deals with it all. It's quite a trip.
You're outta here!
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 25th August 2004
Distributed by: Pyramide Distribution
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 7 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Tony Gatliff
Producer: Tony Gatliff
Screenwriter: Tony Gatliff
Starring: Troian Bellisario as Juliet, Shane Coffey as Romeo