Merzak Allouache (1994’s Bab el-Oued City) continues mining Algerian identity, both North African and French. The Other World (2001) follows a young French-born Algerian woman on a journey to find her missing soldier lover. After hearing he has survived a bloody ambush, Yasmine (the Audrey Tautou–like Marie Brahimi) leaves her Westernized relatives in Algiers, and presses into the desert.
It’s too bad that Allouache’s insurgent Islamists, into whose clutches Yasmine falls for a time, come off like Indiana Jones villains. After harrowing bus rides through terrain policed by gendarmes and thugs alike, Yasmine finds a truck-stop oasis of misfits presided over by a blind proprietress. Unfortunately none do much beyond blandly symbolizing life on the margins. And when the most conflicted character, a stalking insurgent smitten with Yasmine, penetrates this den of immorality as devil ex machina, the fate of its poorly drawn dwellers isn’t of much dramatic consequence. The tragic ending, though, certainly underscores earlier advice from the lipsticked city-dwelling wife of a military officer: “You do what you want in this country, as long as no one sees you.”