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Review: Fevers (Fievres)

BY RASVANTH CHUNYLALL

Hicham Ayouch, is in fine form with this award-winning drama that is well deserved of competing at the Durban International Film Festival.Fevers is a subtle reflection on the Israeli-Palestine conflict through the exploration of a problem child’s introduction to his biological family.

Thisfilm’s title‘Fevers’ is evocative of the hot and unhealthy situation raging between the State of Israel and State of Palestine. With his Jewish name and anti-Arab attitude, the films protagonistBenjamin Zeroubi (Didier Michon) symbolises Israel. The Zeroubi family – with a Quran holding a prominent place in their home and their meals eaten communally from a dish – are symbolic of Palestine. The family’s home acts as a Jerusalem of sorts, where past history and present differences become the source of furious bickering and struggles. The tensions between Israel and Palestine remain and will likely remain for a long time to come. As such, the film appropriately refrains from presenting easy solutions and audiences will experience one of the most shocking endings at the film festival.

When his mother is sent to prison, Benjaminchooses to live with his biological father, Karim Zeroubi(Slimane Dazi), whom he has never met. Karimis revealed to be an impoverished and world-weary man living at home with his parents, Zohra and AbdelkaderZeroubi. Benjamin’s family soon come to realise that the 13-year-old boy has been influenced by his rough upbringing. He isrude, inquisitive, smokes and has no concept of personal space. He displays a racist attitude toward the Arab heritage of the Zeroubis. Benjamin also disappears for protracted periods of time, leaving his family in despair as they try to find him. Perhaps most worrying of all, is the mature (albeit crude) understanding Benjamin has of his conception which he uses to guilt his father. Karim is also at odds with his own father who lambasts him for fathering an illegitimate child and failing to live up to masculine expectations. The family’s complex dynamic is further compounded through a mystery plot surrounding Karim’s hospitalised brother Heikel.

Director Hicham Ayouchallows each of his characters’storylines to develop naturally, drawing the audience into the complex world of his characters. There is also excellent cinematography at play, which is best witnessed in the scenes extolling the tension between Benjamin and Karim. A side shot of these two characters first meeting portrays them physically divided by a car dropping off Benjamin, serving as a metaphor for their relationship. As the car drives off, the chasm between father and son is visually pointed out through the space between them.  

Although all the actors deliver greatly, SlimaneDazi’s portrayal of Kari Zeroubi and that of Didier Michon as young Benjamin are most memorable. With his wrinkled, eye-bagged and unsmiling visage, Dazi depictsa realistic character as the dishevelled Karim who has lived a life of hardship. Michon is astounding as the street-smart Benjamin, deliveringmemorable lines with on-point precision. Dazi and Michon possess great chemistry, most visible in the scenes when father and son clash. 

 

RasvanthChunylall is a Media and Cultural Studies Masters student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. After surviving Catwoman, he has made it his mission to help people watch good movies.

 

The “Student Media Lab” is a training workshop and writing-support mechanism implemented by Professor KeyanTomaselli in order to equip third year and honours students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) to report on the Durban International Film Festival. In its third year running the Student Media Lab is facilitated by The Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) students. CCMS is the Southern African region's premier graduate research and educational unit in media studies.