Thursday, May 18, 2023

Under the Fig Trees Review

Erige Sehiri has adopted a deceptively simple structure for her debut narrative feature Under the Fig Trees. The film opens as the day breaks, with a small band of agricultural workers standing by the side of the road, waiting for their ride to work, and closes with the return journey. In between these commutes we spend a day in the orchard, where these people collect figs; we watch them work, listen to them talk, and gain a brief window into their lives.

The first words we hear in the film are “She took everything and left,” and while this stray comment doesn’t mean anything in the overall scheme of the movie – it’s just two women sharing a bit of village gossip – it does set us up for the film’s tendency to happen upon conversations in medias res and let us hear just a little of what’s being said before moving on. These snatches of talk suggest lives and relationships that exist beyond the confines of what we see on screen.