A Female Cabby in Sidi Bel-Abbès

Directed by Belkacem Hadjadj

52 minutes / Color
English subtitles
Release: 2001
Copyright: 2000

When her husband died Soumicha, mother of three, had to earn a living. She became the only woman taxi driver in Sidi Bel-Abbès, Algeria. This film accompanies Soumicha around a city where religious and political violence rages, and records her experiences in a job normally reserved for men.

Soumicha's interactions with her fares introduce us to contradictory aspects of Algerian society: men who frown on working women are happy to have a cabby with whom they can trust their wives and daughters; other men are supportive, and critical of Algeria's treatment of women, despite the constant threat of the violent Islamic movement.

In the course of her travels Soumicha meets many women, who offer her encouragement (tempered with warnings to be careful), and wave hello when she drives by. Some of the women she meets are actively struggling for more liberties in the face of the militant Islamic movement.

As A FEMALE CABBY IN SIDI BEL-ABBÈS comes to a close a rumor that Soumicha has been murdered by extremists spreads through her city. Men who were critical of her are now openly worried and gather for the latest news, until someone spots her yellow Renault 4. The rumor was a warning for Soumicha, and all Algerian women. But she will be out the next morning, still looking for fares, and showing that Algerian women continue to stand up for themselves in the face of violence.

"A valuable glimpse into a class of people and some very courageous individuals - seldom seen in public. As Soumicha drives her passengers around, we witness the support of women and the ambivalence of men about her very public work.… The picture for working women darkens, however, when we travel to nearby towns with Soumicha and some of her friends. These visits help to establish the context within which Soumicha is working, making her actions all the more courageous."—Al Jadid, A Review & Record of Arab Culture and Arts

"Through [Soumicha's] experiences… [the audience] discovers the living conditions of women in a country where Islamic law wreaks havoc on them."—L'Officiel (France)

"Between tears and songs, 52 minutes of emotional force."—Le Ligueur (France)

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Belkacem Hadjadj

Select Accolades

  • Prix TV5 du Meilleur Documentaire de Namur (2000, Belgium)
  • Special Jury Prize, 2000 Biennale des Cinemas Arabes (Paris)
  • Best Documentary, 2001 Zanzibar International Film Festival
  • 2001 Middle Eastern Studies Association FilmFest
  • 2001 National Women's Studies Association Film Festival
  • 2001 Arab Film Festival (San Francisco)
  • 2001 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
  • 2001 New York African Diaspora Film Festival
  • 2002 Everett Women's Film Festival