Release Date: February 15th, 2006 (Film Forum) by National Film Board of Canada.
Directed by François Kohler.
In French with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about thirteen men who trek out into the Tunisian desert to bond while guided by a psychiatrist.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: With more focus on the group of men’s interactions, Desert Wind could have been a more compelling documentary. Instead, director François Kohler shows most of the mundane events during the voyage as the men slowly walk, set up their tents, cool off, drink, eat, and sleep. They do get plenty of chances to talk to eachother, but not enough to get to know what they are really like and care about them individually. Naturally, some talk about their love life or lack thereof while others are shyer about that topic. The desert seems more interesting than this group of men. It’s hard to grasp why they actually need group therapy in the first place. Perhaps these strangers would have more to talk about if, instead, they were old friends reuniting—kind of like in The Big Chill , although that was a narrative film. In Desert Wind , there’s ultimately not enough to hold your interest in terms of real conflict. Even documentaries should have conflict—after all, why spend 80 minutes watching these men interact in the first place when you could just as well sit on a bench and listen to others talk around you. In an awkward, redundant scene that lasts too long, the men all-of-a-sudden disrobe and show off their naked bodies one-by-one. By the end of the journey, you don’t really get the sense that these men have really changed by this therapy or if they will stay friend afterward.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The only truly meaningful scene is when the men spill their guts to one another. Some of them get teary-eyed while some cry, but at least they get to have a shoulder to lean on and somebody who would listen to them. Unfortunately, since you don’t get to know the men, you only feel a tiny bit of sympathy and empathy toward them and their woes.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough insight into the men’s lives.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 3
IN A NUTSHELL: Boring, unfocused, and mostly pointless.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: TV
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