The Secret of Grain: An initmate look at Tunisian immigrants in France.

Here’s a heads up on a movie that one might easily miss. It most probably didn’t show up at a theater near you, unless you happen to live in a cosmopolitan city with an art house movie theater.

Last night I saw the 2007 film The Secret of Grain at a kick off reception for the Cleveland International Film Festival, and was transported to the immigrant community of Tunisians living in France.

This is a film filled with food, pathos and everyday life filled with the mundane and complexities. The camera comes in close to the subjects bringing the audience into scenes that are messy at times, exuberant, and sometimes devastating.

The dialog does a wonderful job of showing the interplay between immigrants and people who are native to a country–in this case France. It also shows how rough life can be, but how alike families are no matter which culture is influencing them.

The interplay between cultures as people move from their countries to make another country home makes for intriguing stories.

In a way, the story of The Secret of Grain reminds me of The Full Monty where the main character is fighting to stay afloat in fairly inhospitable circumstances. However, there’s a difference between the two. The Full Monty left me crowing with delight. The Secret of Grain left me wondering why life is so darned difficult due to no fault of one’s own.

One of the most valuable aspects of the film is that it shows a different angle of being Muslim. The more versions of stories we can see where the characters are Muslim, the more full and realistic the picture. The religion is an element of the story, but it’s not the story. Here’s a review by A.O Scott from The NY Times. By the way, The Secret of Grain is not showing at the festival, but it indicates the breadth of the types of films one might see and points to why festivals are important. Without festivals, where would such gems be seen?