Voices: A Film from Bahrain

Voices: A Film from BahrainWithout the ending credits, Hussain AlRiffael’s film Voices is barely three minutes long, but it may be one of the most powerful three-minutes in cinema today.  I’m going to describe most of the “plot,” but this won’t spoil it entirely.  I’ll leave out some details—nuances of acting, timing, editing, sound that add pathos and tragedy to the film’s arc.  Words can hardly capture it, so see it for yourself anywhere you can.   Afterwards, I saw audience members at a recent film festival* I ran bent over, palms to their foreheads, stunned.

Sound of children.  Slow zoom into a doorway.  In a kitchen a Muslim woman (actress Shafeeka Yousif) cooks.  She’s peeling a potato.  She’s bathed in the sounds of children playing, jostling, laughing.  Cut to a close street-level view.  A yellowed leaf falls, screen left, quivering on the ground for a few seconds until a wind blows it away.  Back in the kitchen, the potato cut, the woman begins frying the pieces, when suddenly the sounds of children stop.  A click.  The woman pauses, walks off camera.  We see her hand eject a cassette from a tape player, turn the tape over, re-insert it, push the play button.  A moment for the tape’s leader to clear, then sounds of children resume.  She walks away into a dark inner doorway.

All the wars.  All the broken families.  The children.


* The film festival was the Third Annual Fall Festival of Independent Film at North Central College, an event associated with the Naperville Independent Film Festival (NIFF).

  • Go to a post and links to schedules for the 2013 film festival at North Central College.
  • Go to the NIFF website for more about this festival, soon to be an Academy Award certified festival.  It is in its 6th year.
  • Read more reviews on this site.


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