Mysticism isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word "Islamic" these days; terrorism is. But Islamic mysticism, a.k.a. Sufism, has a long, rich tradition that has nothing to do with flying airplanes into skyscrapers. And director Nacer Khemir would like us to know about it. Set amidst the vast expanses of the Tunisian desert, Bab'Aziz uses extremely spare means - lots and lots of sand, mostly - to convey the philosophical grandeur of this arid religion, and if you don't show up in the right frame of mind you may leave that way. Then again, you may be bored to tears. I was a little bit of both, quite frankly, but I didn't regret making the trek.
Neither do the main characters, the aged Bab'Aziz (Parviz Shahinkhou) and his youthful granddaughter, Ishtar (Maryam Hamid). They're on their way to a rare gathering of dervishes, a desert journey during which Bab'Aziz tells Ishtar a story about an ancient prince who stared at his reflection in a pool of water so long that his soul was finally revealed to him. They also encounter other trekkers, all of whom have their own stories to tell. The stories spin around one another, often to the point of dizziness, but that may be the point, to shuffle your thoughts. And what better metaphor for the infinite fluidity of life than all those grains of wind-swept sand?