In many ways, workplaces seem to have their own ecosystems. Their unique hierarchies and relationship dynamics. There are the obvious power structures within any organisation, from the top down, which guide the direction of work, but there are also informal ones. Those interactions between workers which, over time, create an environment which is either conducive or detrimental to productivity. Under the Fig Trees explores these themes.
It’s a bright morning as a group of workers, mainly women, wait to be picked up by their boss to be transported to the orchard. As they clamber onto the back of a truck, Fide (Fide Fdhili) gets into the passenger side, aware that his attentions are not wholly professional. When they arrive and begin to get to work, experienced hands snap into a rhythm. It’s a tricky crop to harvest, care and attention must be paid. Talk soon begins with new and old enmities and friendships sparking into life.
Using a cast of unprofessional actors playing varying versions of themselves, Under the Fig Trees is a thoughtful and concise drama. The camera observes the women, and a few men, as they work, talk, fight and flirt. Gradually we begin to detect undertones. Conversations which suggest there is much more at play here, but the trick of Erige Sehiri’s feature debut is to let things simmer. The highs and lows of one day play-out, but in the end the bond of sisterhood endures.
Under the Fig Trees screens at London Film Festival.