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...
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"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."