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Arezki, a Kabyle peasant, takes a dying young stranger into his home and struggles all through the winter to keep him alive. While he is recuperating, the young man, Larbi, has a secret love affair with the peasant’s daughter. Once he is well Larbi leaves for home, promising to return. A few months later the peasant discovers his daughter is pregnant. Suddenly, the whole meaning of his life is reduced to one objective: to avenge the stain on his honour. He goes hunting for Larbi. Meanwhile Larbi comes back to marry the daughter...
"Machaho” is the first of the incantatory opening words, “Machaho tellem chaho”, with which old Kabyle women begin telling a story. To me as a young boy, it was a magic word which opened the doors of my imagination and sent me travelling. To me as an adult sharing the pain of present-day Algeria, it is a magic formula which carries me back to the world of my childhood, the individual, foetal childhood where you feel loved and protected. What I try to express in my film is the complex, ongoing relationship between tradition and modernity, memory and identity, which are so much a part of Algeria’s present woes. My film extols the virtues of tradition but it also sets out to condemn the archaic foundations on which every kind of fundamentalism is based."