Le Barrage - Ali Cherri
Le Barrage - Ali Cherri

5 min

The Dam, a film by Ali Cherri

With The Dam, the artist Ali Cherri offers us a first feature film of poetic and powerful fiction, taking us to the banks of the Nile, in Sudan. The film, scheduled for release in France on 1 March 2023, has been supported by Aide aux cinémas du monde (CNC - Institut français). 


© Unifrance

Visual artist and director

Born in Beirut in 1976, Ali Cherri witnessed first hand the civil war that tore through Lebanon during his childhood. This experience will have a profound influence on his work, which focuses on themes of trauma, ruin and transformation. Awarded a Silver Lion in Venice in 2022, his work focuses on the way in which human violence leaves permanent traces in urban and natural spaces. This question is at the heart of his feature film The Dam, selected for the Directors' Fortnight this year. 


The mysterious powers of water

Filmed in Nubia, northern Sudan, The Dam tells the story of Maher, who works in a traditional brickyard fed by the waters of the Nile. While the distant sounds of the revolution taking place in Khartoum reach the workers, like echoes of a far away reality, Maher disappears every night to carry out a mysterious task. Away from the others, he builds a mud structure that will eventually come to life and give him strange advice. 


Une fable sur les printemps arabes

The Dam is the final part of a trilogy on the Arab Spring, of which the short films The Disquiet and The Digger were the first two parts. In 2017, Ali Cherri travelled to Sudan in order to visit a dam on the Nile with disastrous consequences for the environment and local populations. He decided to shoot a film there with non-professional actors found on the spot, including Maher. Filming proved particularly difficult due to the isolated location and the massive demonstrations that broke out across the country to demand the departure of the dictator Omar Béchir. 


A film steeped in spirituality

The Dam received support from the CNC and the Institut français and was presented at the Directors' Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival. According to Ali Cherri, it is a work that "speaks of the Sudanese revolution, but also, more generally, of any movement for political change and hope in the world." Through a powerful spun metaphor, this fable of artistic creation also tells us something about our relationship with things and the world. The film is thus imbued with Sufi spirituality, reminding us that all of the elements that make up our environment are sacred.