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The Very Worst Things: Vulnerability and Violence in Djamila Sahraoui's Yema (2012)


This article explores the connections between vulnerability, gender and terrorist violence, drawing on Algerian filmmaker Djamila Sahraoui’s Yema (2012). The film will first be situated in relation to Sahraoui’s oeuvre, and within a wider context of debates around the changing nature of political violence and its representation in Maghrebi, Hollywood and European cinema. This comparison underlines Yema’s innovatory formal and thematic focus on slow narrative time, sparse aesthetics, and fragile, intimate images. The article then examines the concept of vulnerability in relation to terrorism, in particular linking Sahraoui’s choice of formal techniques to the film’s thematic staging of various modes of physical and psychical vulnerability to violence. Finally, the allegorical and mythological motifs used in Yema will be considered in relation to the gendering of the figures of victim and agent in both the film and wider cultural imaginaries of political violence. Finally, the article shows how Sahraoui offers a feminist reconfiguration of the myths of Medea and Antigone, discussing the relation between maternity, the nation, and the state in the Algerian context, suggesting that, in the film’s dramatization of a mother who inflicts suffering, larger questions are raised about personal and political responses to the feelings of exposure that terrorist violence engenders.


(2019). The Very Worst Things: Vulnerability and Violence in Djamila Sahraoui's Yema (2012). Studies in French Cinema, 246-264.

Acceptance Date Aug 8, 2018
Publication Date Jul 3, 2019
Journal Studies in French Cinema
Print ISSN 1471-5880
Publisher Intellect
Pages 246-264
Keywords Yema, violence, Algerian Civil War, Algerian film, gender, vulnerability, myth, mother
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