The String

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The String (original title: le fil)
The String.jpg
Directed by Mehdi Ben Attia
Written by Mehdi Ben Attia and Olivier Laneurie
Starring Claudia Cardinale
Music by original by Karol Beffa,
Release date
  • August 29, 2009 (2009-08-29) (Angoulême)
  • May 12, 2010 (2010-05-12) (France)
Running time
93 min
Country France
Language Arabic

The String (French: Le Fil) is a 2010 French film with French and Arabic dialogue, directed by Mehdi Ben Attia and made in Belgium and Tunisia. It stars Claudia Cardinale[1]. Notably, much of the film was shot in Tunisia, the country of birth of the film's director, Mehdi Ben Attia as well as that of Claudia Cardinale.


The film is focused on the relationship of Malik with his mother, in the first weeks after Malik returns home to Tunisia from France to live with his recently widowed French-born mother, Sara, on the family estate in the wealthy beachfront Tunis suburb, La Marsa. The French title,Le Fil refers to Malik's neurotic anxiety, originating in childhood but continuing in the time of the story, that he is attached at his back to a string that threatens to entangle and strangle him, an anxiety that expresses a troubled and deeply ambivalent relationship with his dominating mother, whom he cannot confront but upon whom he is dependent. The title is also apparently a play on words, as the French title of the film, "le fil" (the thread), is closely akin in spelling to "le fils" (the son).

His mother and grandmother want Malik to marry and have children and Malik has failed to confront his mother with his own homosexuality. During the course of the story, Malik agrees to marry his friend and cousin, Syrine, a lesbian who is planning a pregnancy by artificial insemination in order to raise a child with her lesbian lover, but who nevertheless wants the child to have a father and be like other children in the traditional society of Tunisia. Malik also encounters and falls in love with Bilal, a 25 year old also recently returned from France to Tunisia, who does odd jobs and gardening for Sara and lives in the servants' quarters on the estate. Sara discovers the pair in bed together and begins her own journey of acceptance even as two lovers depart on a road trip to the countryside where their intimacy and bond grows.

The film opens with a class of adults studying Arabic as a second language. While the teacher rehearses the students in repeating a simple phrase, Hakim, one of the students, whispers to his friend Bilal a question about why a person returns to his country, saying that he regrets everyday his decision to come back to Tunisia from France. .


  • Claudia Cardinale : Sara, Malik's mother
  • Antonin Stahly : Malik, Sara's son, an architect
  • Salim Kechiouche : Bilal, the handyman and gardener living in the servant's bungalow on Sara's property
  • Rihab Mejri : Wafa, Sara's cook and servant, lives in a room in the servants' bungalow
  • Driss Ramdi : Hakim, Bilal's friend, a fellow student learning Arabic as a second language
  • Ramla Ayari : Syrine, Malik's cousin, friend and colleague at an architectural firm
  • Abir Bennani : Leïla, the girlfriend of Syrine
  • Lotfi Dziri : Abdelaziz, the father of Malik, recently deceased at the time the main story takes place, he's seen in flashbacks of Malik's and Sara's memories.
  • Nejia Nemzi : Malik's grandmother
  • Ali Mrabet : Wassim, the homo cousin of Malik
  • Hosni Khaled: Moncef, Syrine's father and a friend of Malik's parents


  1. ^ "Claudia Cardinale". Retrieved December 1, 2010. 

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