Samia is heavily pregnant, jobless and homeless in a teeming marketplace in Casablanca.
Abla, a grieving widow, slams the door in Samia’s face when she knocks and asks for work.
But when Abla looks from her window and sees Samia trying to sleep on a doorstep across the road she can’t quieten her conscience and invites her in.
“Just for a few days,” she snaps.
This is the start of Adam, a deeply satisfying film from Moroccan first-time director Maryam Touzani, featuring two exceptional actors – Nisrin Erradi as Samia and Lubna Azabal as Abla.
With a minimum of dialogue the two women display remarkable emotional depth as their relationship gradually unfolds.
Abla’s husband, a fisherman, left home for a quick trip to the waterfront and never returned.
Suddenly the house was filled with people attending to his burial.
“I couldn’t kiss him, touch him, even say goodbye,” she said.
“There is no place for a woman at a burial.”
Since then she has eked out a living selling pastries from her doorway, grim and unsmiling, softening only when she deals with her bubbly young daughter Warda (a charming Douae Belkhaouda).
Despite her hostess’s unfriendly attitude, Samia gradually persuades her to let her help in the house, showing an impressive skill at preparing traditional Moroccan pastries for Abla to sell.
But Samia knows there is no place in Morocco’s patriarchal society for an unmarried mother, or for a bastard child.
She is convinced that she has no alternative than to give up her baby for adoption and return to her parents’ village.
There are poignant scenes as the tearful new mother crouches in a corner, turning her back on her child.
But how could she resist the heart-rending cries of the hungry newborn baby, while her breasts are bursting with milk?
Director Touzani, apparently inspired by the birth of her own child, vividly portrays the overwhelming feelings of love and protection of a new mother for her baby.
Until now, Touzani has been known for short films and her work with her film-maker husband, Nabil Ayouch, who collaborated with her writing the script for Adam and also acted as producer.
But this film is unmistakeably a woman’s creation, with memorable cinematography from Virginia Surde.
There are fascinating glimpses of life in the busy North African city, as well as many close-ups of the women’s expressive faces.
Adam opens on Thursday, September 10, at Luna Leederville.
Watch the trailer…