Sunday, April 3, 2022


"Soil" (2021) has a lot of unique features that caught my attention.  There was a Morocco connection, an unusual burial practice and an interesting language issue.  

The crux of the story is when a Moroccan immigrant dies living in Belgium they had the choice of getting buried locally (where family living in Belgium could visit) or back to the holy land they came from.  By a set of fluky circumstances some Moroccan soil was sent to a family that repatriated burials and a younger son decided to use the soil to be used to bury a Moroccan in Belgium.  This turned out to be popular.

Of course living people were heavily involved.  At the beginning the narrator, Ismael, the young son takes us back 15 years or so to when his mother died.  She had requested to be buried in Brussels so she could rest close to where her family lived.  As it happened the father, Omar who ran a business repatriating the bodies to Morocco for burial felt pressured to send his wife back to Tangiers, Morocco where she had been born.  The younger son felt betrayed.  A few years later the father decided to leave the business and left 50% to the younger son who was not interested and split the remaining between his daughter, Nadia and her husband, Rachid who had been involved in the business.  It is Ismael who stumbles on using the Moroccan soil so that the Moroccan immigrants can keep their dead buries close to them.  There are technical difficulties, but more family conflicts.  A few outsiders are involved.

A few reviewers complained that the 8 episodes left a few unresolved issues.  I felt it was complete in itself, but agreed there are always issues that could be extended and it looks like there will be a season two and I don't want to miss it.

My brother in law, Ali died while visiting his family in Morocco unfortunately died there.  I remember my sister and one niece dropped what they were doing in Montreal and flew to Morocco for the burial.  I can only guess what he would have chosen.  His family in Morocco will likely visit his grave, but my sister and her two daughters will find the trip requires a lot of effort.  In the series, the trip is only a few hours flight from Belgium to Morocco, but causes anxiety among those whose future is in Belgium.

Every story requires some core tools.  The burial practices provided one such, but to gain more popular attention we viewers want to know how the people fit in.  As in real life there was conflict and a few side issues.  The closest friend to the youngest son was a Belgian, Jean-Baptiste (JB) who was a bit resented and he had a sister, Alizée.  The widowed father had found a new love, a Dutch Muslim widow who the father hid from his children. 

IMDB clearly said the movie was in Dutch and Arabic, but on Netflix they claimed it was in Flemish and Arabic.   Not my first movie in Belgium and this had caused me confusion. Dutch is the main language in Netherlands while Flemish, as the second official language is found in northern Belgium and parts of France.   From what my research has revealed it appears Dutch and Flemish are very similar with the main difference being pronunciation.  The Dutch pronunciation tends to English while the Flemish tends to French.  There are vocabulary differences, but generally each can understand the other.  A prominent Flemish actor is the prolific award winner Matthias Schoenaerts who has appeared in such international films as "The Black Book" (2006) "Bullhead" (2011), "Rust and Bone" (2012), "Suite Francaise" (2014), "Far from the Madding Crowd" (2015), "The Danish Girl" (2015), "Red Sparrow" (2018), "A Hidden Life" (2019) and "The Laundromat" (2019).

Producer Annemie Degryse with a background of Dutch/Flemish films that included "Rust and Bone" (2012). 

The main director was Mathieu Mortelmans who has a background with Dutch/Flemish tv. series.  Two of the directors, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah  also have a background with Dutch/Flemish films and got attention of American film makers and directed "Bad Boys for Life" (2020)

The trio of writers, Zouzou Ben Chikha, Wannes Cappelle and Dries Heyneman all took supporting roles in the series.

Yassine Ouaich plays Ismael, the young at first disinterested son and latches onto the idea of using Moroccan soil for burials in Belgium.  His father is upset with him, but he sneaks around.

Ward Kerremans plays the best friend, JB.  

Ahlaam Teghadouini plays Nadia, the helpful daughter and bit of a mediator in only her second tv. series..  She is very likable.

Said Bumazoughe plays the son in law Rachid who really thought he would take over the business.  He was very reluctant to accept the idea of using Moroccan soil for Belgian burials.  

Ben Hamidou plays the father who pretends to go to Mecca while he courts a Dutch woman.  He doesn't want to accept new innovations, but his lover sees things a little differently.  Ben had been in "Two Days, One Night" (2014).

 Charlotte De Bruyne plays JB's sister and you might guess has a bit of romance.  

Tom Vermeir plays Brahim, a recent Muslim convert just out of prison and wearing an ankle device has been a rock star, literally for a few years.  His role is a calm being and helps keep others balanced.

The world is increasngly inter connected and this film fits right in.  Available on Netflix in dubbed or subtitled format. 

Another blog dealing with my confusion between Dutch and Flemish:

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