The slaughterhouse echoes fatalism, carnage and struggle. The killing methods for cows have been redesigned in order to reduce the pain inflicted to the animals. But it’s all good news for the bovines: beef consumption worldwide has tripled in the past four decades.
The physical and mental plight of the workers in slaughterhouses is a serious issue with various ethical and environmental implications — and this is what Algerian filmmaker Ferhani explores in his film. The title of the film refers to one of those workers’ statements: “In my head, it is like a roundabout with 99 exits”, even though we all know that a roundabout has no more than four exits.
Roundabout in My Head is a study of modern-day Algeria. There are evidently two forces in contrast: Thanatos (the daemon personification of death) and Eros (the impulses for love and desire). Whilst the film contains graphic scenes of animal slaughter, audience is entertained by the workers’ tales of love stories, which are surprisingly naive. They believe in true love and sacred marriage.
One of the most smashing registers of the movie, some butchers are trying to watch a football match on TV while other butchers drag a cow to the killing site, with the animal suddenly obstructing the view of the football fans. Everything looks absurd, and victory, competition and life itself seem futile.
One of the workers shows his employment documents — he started working in the slaughterhouse in 1945. They play domino or watch films in French language on TV. They discuss in Arabic what if Zidane would play for their country, instead of being a member of French National Team. By portraying the daily life in the slaughterhouse, Roundabout in My Head is a reminder of the resistance and pride of the colonised Algerian and Berber, despite the heavy hand of the settlers. The French controlled education, government, business, and most intellectual life for 132 years and through a policy of cultural imperialism attempted to suppress Algerian cultural identity and to remold the society along French lines.
Agonising gigantic and fat cows are killed in order to feed “civilised” people. The colonised are strong and resilient, despite their predicament — just like the cows. This documentary is critique of European colonisation and both European and Algerians should watch it.
Roundabout in My Head received the Emerging Talent Prize at Open City Documentary Festival.
Watch the film trailer below: