Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

Mercredi 21 Novembre 2012,

Mimouna Club Fez a eu le plaisir d’organiser une table ronde au Maimonide (Centre de la communauté juive de Fès) où l’invité d’honneur était le réalisateur du film documentaire « Tinghir – Jérusalem : les échos du Mellah » Kamal Hachkar.

Kamal Hachkar

C’était une journée exceptionnelle, les amis de ce club culturel ont joui le débat avec ce jeune réalisateur autodidacte qui est professeur d’Histoire-Géographie dans un des lycées de Paris. Ce dernier a voulu passer un message pacifique, en relatant l’exode massif des familles juives marocaines et notamment juives amazighes en Israël. Le réalisateur a fouillé dans le passé pour collecter plus d’informations sur cet exode (Les raisons et les conséquences) qui a laissé des cicatrices profondes dans l’histoire d’un Maroc multiple et pluriel.

La journée de ce Mercredi 21 Novembre a commencé par une petite tournée dans le centre Maimonide, la où les membres et les invités du club accompagnés de Kamel Hachkar, ont découvert une salle que je dirais «nostalgique», pleins de photos sur les murs qui témoignent d’une époque merveilleuse, des visites de personnalités célèbres représentant les deux communautés juive et musulmane de la ville de Fès, une époque aujourd’hui révolue.

422977_501335636565453_1905227796_n

En commençant par une présentation générale du Club Mimouna Fez, les participants de cette table ronde étaient excités à discuter et à avoir plus d’informations sur ce film documentaire et surtout, ils ont voulu savoir les raisons qui ont poussé ce réalisateur à travailler sur ce sujet et sur Tinghir particulièrement. Quant a lui Kamal Hachkar, il était très généreux sur ce niveau, il a expliqué davantage l’idée de ce film documentaire, en le présentant comme moyen important pour passer des messages de paix et de tolérance et surtout, pour encourager les Marocains à s’ouvrir sur la culture, les arts, et les identités de leurs pays.

table ronde

Kamal Hachkar, a mentionné des noms qui ont encouragé et soutenu la réalisation de ce travail, dont feu Simon Levy. Il a ajouté que ce travail a été le fruit de plusieurs années de recherches un peu partout dans les archives de certaines villes (Rabat, Casablanca, Fès, Nantes, Jérusalem etc.) Il a parlé aussi de multiples étapes qu’il a traversé pour pouvoir réaliser cette oeuvre à la manière qu’il voulait. Avec enthousiasme et bonne volonté, ce jeune Franco-Marocain a su réaliser ses objectifs, et je cite quelques uns : l’encouragement des jeunes à la préservation et la protection du patrimoine culturel Marocain. Et l’appel à la mobilisation des jeunes pour construire un monde où la paix et la tolérance ont une place indispensable.

Après avoir traité plusieurs sujets concernant ce film documentaire qui a récolté plusieurs prix nationaux et internationaux, l’ensemble des participants à cette table ronde se sont mis d’accord que l’acceptation d’autrui malgré ses différences, est un moyen indispensable pour que la paix et la tolérance jaillissent dans les cœurs des gens, et qu’il faut obligatoirement éduquer les générations qui viennent à conserver et prendre soin de leur héritage et histoire.

598379_501339279898422_892543413_n

Le patrimoine culturel Marocain nous appartient à nous tous, juifs et musulmans, arabes et amazighs, Préservons le!

 

— Je tiens à remercier au nom de l’équipe organisatrice et aux noms de tous les amis du Club Mimouna, M. Armand Guigui le président de la communauté juive de Fès, Sefrou, et Oujda qui nous a donné la chance d’avoir un local où l’évènement s’est déroulé.

 

Récit par Bouchra Choukrani

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

نظم أعضاء فرع مدينة فاس لنادي ميمونة يوم الأحد11 نونبر 2012 أمسية ثقافية داخل مقهى الساعةCafé Clockالمتواجدة بالمدينة القديمة، نبشت في ذاكرة التاريخ البعيد القريب، محاولة أن تكشف بعض أسرار الهوية المغربية اقتصارا على نشاطين اثنين.

كان أول النشاطين عرضا للفيلم المغربي “وداعا أمهات” للمخرج محمد إسماعيل،وهوفيلم يناقش قضية رحيل اليهود المغاربة إلى إسرائيل في فترة الستينات من القرن الماضي، ويميط اللثام عن أواصر المحبة التي كانت تجمع بين اليهود والمسلمين داخل بلد آمن منذ عهد قديم بمبادئ التعدد الثقافي ووحدة الوطن.

 وقدمت نائبة رئيس (ن.م.ف)*الفيلمَ بكلمات وضعت الجمهور داخل السياق التاريخي والاجتماعي لكل من الشريط ووقائعه، تاركة للحضور فرصة اكتشاف الأحداث والتفاعل معها، ليتم استطلاع وجهات نظرهم فيما بعد.

وعقب انتهاء العرض الذي تم بسينما دار الساعة في جو تراثي يموج بعبق الذكريات وهمسات الحنين، انتقل الحاضرون إلى النشاط الثاني الذي كان عبارة عن جلسة نقاش موسع حول الفيلم وحيثياته ومجرياته.

وترأس الجلسة رئيس (ن.م.ف) منطلقا من التعريف بالنادي وبأهدافه،ومقدما نفسه حتى يتسنى للكل أن يقدموا أنفسهم، ويخوضوا إذ ذاك في جو حوار انطبعت أطوارُه بصبغة التفاهم والرضى والاختلاف المحمود الذي لا يجر إلى صراع ولا يؤدي إلى جدال عقيم.ودارت معظم موضوعات النقاش حول آراء الحاضرين في بعض مقاطع الشريط بما في ذلك جوانبه التقنية.

و كان هذا اللقاء فسحة حملت الجميع على بساط الشوق إلى الماضي المشترك المتجذر في صميم الهوية المغربية الموقنة بالتعدد والمؤمنة بالآخر وبضرورة وجوده من أجل وجود الذات وصيرورتها.

ومهما كان الأمر، فقد أفضى الحديث إلى إزالة بعض اللبس الذي يشوب اللمحات التاريخية، وإلى ملئ شيء من الفراغ المتعلق بقضية الهوية ومفهوم الوطن في المغرب، مما جعل الحاضرين يطلبون من تلقاء أنفسهم تنظيم لقاءات ثقافية أخرى مشابهة، وأنشطة تربوية تمحو من الأذهان الصور الجاهزة والأفكار النمطية، وتحول دون ضياع كل من العقل البشري وقيمة الإنسان المثلى بين متاهات المواقف الإيديولوجية والأهداف الفردية.

ن.م.ف): نادي ميمونة فاس)*

بقلم  حميد الطالبي

Read Full Post »

This is taken from my Master’s thesis entitled “The Representation of Moroccan Jews in Moroccan Cinema.” (2012)

 

A Bit of Luck (1994)

Tipat Mazal

We learn about the Jews’ departure to Israel from a Moroccan perspective [after analyzing Mohamed Ismail’s Goodbye Mothers, and Hassan Benjelloun’s Where Are You Going Moshe?], the author has opted for adding a film that completes the story of when they arrived to Israel. It is like part II for Where Are You Going Moshe? Tipat Mazal (A Bit of Luck) is a 1994 film which shows the emigration of Moroccan Jews to Eretz Israel[1] while following the story of a father Jojo Ben Soussan and his daughter Vivi in their journey. This is not really a Moroccan film, but the filmmaker and the theme are from Morocco. With Ze’ev Revach who plays the protagonist in the film, we learn about the Moroccan Jews’ emigration to Israel from another perspective.

It is only the first 19 minutes of this film that take place in Morocco, the rest is in Israel. It is possible that Hassan Benjelloun was inspired to make his film as an elaboration on these 19 minutes; since there are several similarities between Where Are You Going Moshe? (2007) and A Bit of Luck (1994).

Before Jojo’s departure to Israel, we see him in the cemetery praying and crying at the tomb of his grandfather asking him for blessings for a safe arrival to Eretz Israel. The tomb represents his past in Morocco that he is leaving behind, a past that died and was buried there. Shlomo (in Where Are You Going Moshe?) even took some dust and put it in his pocket to remind him of Morocco while he is by his father’s tomb.

Both Shlomo and Jojo are singers and they play the lute. We always see them singing the Moroccan song “My Casablanca, My Morocco.” It is part of their identity, Moroccan national identity. Jojo even sings it in Israel.

When Grasia’s boyfriend, Albert, learns about her departure with her husband Jojo to Israel he asks her “what are you going to do there in a country of desert?” He adds trying to convince her to stay with him “I will take you to Spain, Paris, all over the world. And you want to go to the country of hunger, Israel.” This conversation somewhat introduces us to the mood of the film. Indeed, she does not go to Israel but rather leaves with the wealthy Albert to Paris.

Importantly, Jojo tells his wife that when they will go to Israel, they will sing and dance when the Messiah comes. This shows that he is going to Israel for religious reasons, because when all the Jews of the world meet in the Promised Land, the Messiah will come. The same sentence is said by the Rabbi in Where Are You Going Moshe?

The camera moves to the boat that is taking the Moroccan Jewish population to Israel. When it was announced in Hebrew that they have arrived to Israel, we see them all running to see it singing the national hymn of Israel Hatikva which means Hope. Then we see a rainbow which is the symbol of God’s promise on earth[2], connoting God’s promise to return them to the Holy Land.

When the buses arrive to Israel, a woman is welcoming them in Hebrew, Jojo wonders if anyone understands her, but no one does. Then a woman speaking Arabic comes instead and they are all co-operating with her. We see translators of different languages; this shows that Jews are coming from all nations.

The first issue they face when they arrive to Israel is communication. Hebrew is the language spoken in Israel, and Moroccan Jews don’t usually use it for communication. While they are in Israel, there is a school for kids teaching them Hebrew. Then they are complaining about the hard life they are leading where they are only eating eggs, sleeping on the floor, and mosquitoes are everywhere. They are not paid well for the hard jobs they do. This is predicted by Shlomo’s wife who tells him “stop singing, when you get there (Israel) hard work is waiting for you.”

The film actually confirms what Albert said in the beginning, Israel is a desert and a place that needs construction. The Israel that we see in this film is only a desert, an empty space. This is the reason why Benchetrit in Goodbye Mothers asks Henry who works in construction to join the young state.

The fact that Jojo goes blind when he is in Israel is very symbolic and interestingly he is cured in Paris … and then returns to Israel (while one would be expecting him to go back to Morocco). The film ends (in Israel) with a song about Morocco.


[1] Eretz Israel stands for the Land of Israel. It will be used here as used in the film.

[2] Genesis 9: 9- 17.

Read Full Post »

Agadir – April 24-28, 2012

Founded by Nezha Drissi, the International Documentary Film Festival: FIDADOC is an exclusively dedicated to the genre of documentary films. Drissi’s desire was to develop the production of this genre in Morocco. The opening of the fourth edition, which took place in cinema Rialto in Agadir, began with a film in homage of the deceased Nezha Drissi whose initiative is carried on by her disciples. The festival is in partnership with 2M. The festival also includes programs for school children.

IMG_9518

Enfants de Regueb (Children of Ragueb) is a short film that introduces a new perspective to the aftermaths of the revolution in Tunisia, this time presented by the children of the country. These children present their opinions freely about the former president Ben Ali. The film shows how these children dislike Ben Ali and give mature-like answers, such as: “Ben Ali stole our money” “When I was young I loved Ben Ali, but now (giving the impression that they are old enough now to consider this issue while they are still at the age of about 12-13) I don’t like him.” The film-maker provokes them by asking the question: “Do you have money, did he steal your own money?” The film argues that these are their parent’s opinions which are repeated by their children.

IMG_9809The next film in the projection sequence is Jerome Le Maire’s film: Le Thé ou l’électricité?  (Tea or Electricity). It tackles the daily struggles of the inhabitants of the village of Ifri in the mountains. The film, or rather the characters in the film, gained many applauds. The film-maker follows the story of the development (introducing electricity) of a village. Electricity was seen as a blessing to the village, but once it was installed in their humble houses, problems occurred that made their lives rather complicated than more comfortable. The film was the winner of the prize.

The festival continued for 5 days, starting from April 24th to 28th. There were film directors, producers and other professionals from the cinema industry.

Read Full Post »

The old city of Fez dates back more than 1200 years; it has been the symbol of conservatism, traditions and authenticity. Today, it is introduced to the global market which to some extent makes its identity blurred. Aspects of globalization are seen everywhere. In this article, I will begin with defining what globalization is and then discuss its effects on the local culture. This article is concerned primarily with highlighting one of the main facets of globalization in the medina, the increasing phenomenon of Hollywood film sellers.

Globalization according to Thomas Friedman, is the integration of capital, technology, and information across national borders, in a way that is creating a single global market and, to some degree, a global village.[1] Globalization is mostly defined as a “borderless world,” Bryan Turner in his book Globalization East and West (2010) argues however that “the world is only borderless for the privileged few, but for the great majority of humanity it is a tightly bordered and highly regulated world.”[2] This statement is true to some extent, but in the case of pirated Hollywood films, they are easy to get and available to all in the old Medina of Fez. CD sellers are found everywhere, selling the latest films (mostly in French) to the Moroccan customers. Turner quotes Moore saying that “The life of the individual anywhere is affected by events and processes everywhere.” (Moore, 1966: 482). “Globalization” in this framework refers then, to the process by which the “world becomes a single place” (Robertson, 1992), and hence the volume and depth of social interconnectedness are greatly increased. Globalization can also be seen as the compression of social space according to Giddens (1990). His definition of globalization was influenced by the so-called “spatial turn.”[3]One feels that these Hollywood films do not belong to that space; they disturb and intrude on its authenticity. It’s like pieces of the whole world all jump into a place where they do not fit, and the irony is that the seller is a Moroccan. It is this Moroccan who becomes the vehicle for bringing these global products into the streets and shops of the Medina.

Globalization is usually confused with Americanization or Westernization; it is viewed by some as “Westernization in general and Americanization in particular.”[4] In the process of developing this discussion, it is useful to understand the difference between what is globalized and what is Americanized. Turner begins the second chapter of his book with a series of questions “is globalization simply a euphemism for concepts such as Americanization or Westernization? Can there be an “Asian globalization”? Yes, I think globalization is more of an umbrella term. It is confused with Americanization because it is mostly American products such as Coca Cola, jeans and McDonald’s that are spreading all over the globe. Friedman counters this argument stating that “…globalization is in so many ways Americanization: globalization wears Mickey Mouse ears, it drinks Pepsi and Coke, eats Big Macs, does its computing on an IBM laptop with Windows 98. Many societies around the world can’t get enough of it, but others see it as a fundamental threat.”[5]In my point of view, globalization does not necessarily mean Americanization; America just happens to have more influence on the globe at this time. On the other hand, America itself is introduced to global elements such as Asian Restaurants and the famous Sushi bars that are everywhere in the country.

Globalization can have serious effects on the local culture and identity. Hollywood films for example might have a dangerous influence on the morals and behaviors of Moroccan teenagers. Moreover, it has an impact on the space of the Medina; it profanes the sacred space of the Medina. This can be seen in a whole shop of films with lewd images that cover the wall facing the Bouananiya mosque. Turner supports this idea as he writes that “The processes of globalization, including its often negative consequences, have appeared to be inevitable and all-embracing. No society, however small and remote, could escape entanglement with such global cultural, political and economic processes.”[6] Globalization could lead to the transformation of the society changing the practices and shaping the values to fit within the global culture. For Anthony Giddens, globalization “is really about the transformation of space and time.”[7] Obviously the space of the Medina is transformed, the scene of CD shops everywhere would have never been observed a decade ago. Today, however, it has become normalized to look at such profane images on the covers and even buy films from these shops, whereas a decade ago people would have been highly offended by the very same movies. Globalization shapes people’s everyday life, “their mentalities, habits, values, preferences, choices and actions.”[8]

IMG_4114

Interestingly, globalization is not a total erasure of the local culture. The local culture participates in shaping itself in accordance with these foreign products. They would buy a Hollywood film with two or more Moroccan films. Turner argues that:

Globalization does not mean the removal or erasure of local culture. Local cultures under the conditions of globality have become as important as global culture itself. Local culture does not surrender itself unproblematically to forces from outside; rather it absorbs as it valorizes its own distinctiveness. At the turn of the twenty-first century, what is local and what is global are becoming increasingly uncertain. The near-erasure of the distinction between the local and the global as spatial categories has given way to a disjuncture between conceptual and spatial polarities.[9]

To conclude, globalization is no longer understood as either global or local, rather it is an interaction between the global and local simultaneously or “glocal” in Robertson’s terminology.


[1] Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, (Random House: New York, 2000).

[2] Bryan Turner, Globalization East and West, (SAGE: London, 2010), p. 3.

[3]Ibid., 8.

[4]Ibid., 19.

[5] Thomas L. Friedman, “Angry, Wired and Deadly,” New York Times, 22 August 1989, A25.

[6] Bryan Turner, Globalization East and West, p.1.

[7]Ibid., 22.

[8]Ibid., 36.

[9] Ibid., 33.

Read Full Post »

CasaNegraCasanegra (2008) is a Moroccan film directed by Nour Eddine Lakhmari, it has represented Morocco widely in many festivals and obtained many Awards. The movie is seen as a “success” though it has been greatly criticized for the uncomfortable “street” language used in it. Others, however, agreed that this is the Moroccan reality, the daily language that we usually hear in the streets, so nothing new. The film is given an ironical title: Casanegra which literally means the black house; it gives a pejorative image of Casablanca, the real name of the city which literally means the white house.

It is an alternative cinema, for the protagonists are marginalized characters. Much space is devoted to the people who are put in the periphery, which empowers them and gives them an opportunity to express themselves and tell their, untold, stories. We see Casablanca city through their eyes and hard circumstances, what probably makes it a black place. Interestingly, most of the scenes are shot in the dark, at night, a technique used by the director to reflect the characters’ interior anxieties.

Casanegra reflects reality, the Moroccan reality with all its contradictions. It deals with different social issues such as: poverty, social hierarchy, prostitution, homosexuality, drugs and violence. The dramatic story revolves around two ordinary young men who are put in the margin of the society. Adil suffers from his violent stepfather, who always beats his mother. This pushes Adil to stick to his dream, manifested in a postcard, and eventually plans to leave his “Casanegra”. Karim is a little more optimistic; he is more concerned with his family and falls in love with a woman, but later he suffers from love deception. Nevertheless, what unifies Adil and Karim is their attempts to do the impossible through all the means to better their social life.

Nabila (I will use the name she is given on the movie’s profile: Nabila, though she was only once referred to as Nabila by her friend) represents a modernized icon in the Moroccan society. The criteria of her modernized character are: speaking French, driving a car, wearing western clothes, going to the night club, smoking, and the fact that she is a divorced woman. To what extent does her modern and liberated life empower (or disempowers) her as a woman? And has she succeeded in creating a Third Space between tradition and modernity, Morocco and the West?

The woman in the store is westernized; there is almost nothing about her that reveals her Moroccan identity. Perhaps, this is the reason why she remained unnamed throughout the two hours movie. She has a confused Moroccan identity with a Western one; she is a ‘neither-nor’ character. This inbetweeness creates a kind of ambivalence in her personality; she is torn between two different worlds. She lives a librated western life in a Muslim country, attempting to live the West in the East, (that is, if we regard Morocco as an Eastern country, geographically speaking.) The West is mainly a modern secular world and Morocco is a Muslim society. She is flowing back and forth between two different worlds trying to create a Third Space. The woman working in the store is a westernized character par excellence, but since she lives in Morocco, so somehow she managed to live a Third Space.

Some Moroccan women take the journey of modernization, and eventually, start to criticize and be ashamed of their own culture and identity. They observe their society from dual positions: being superior looking down upon their own culture from Western lenses and being in an inferior position vis-à-vis the West. Returning to Nabila, her mimic of the West is manifested in the use of the French language and her Western clothes. Adil was making fun at his friend Karim asking him to “teach some Arabic” to her; because she uses mostly French, the language of the West. Actually, pretending to look modernized (in certain cases even superior) is the reason why some people prefer to speak French, or at least code mix French and Arabic.

Interestingly, the woman in the store is usually looked at from the outside speaking to her clients. Her voice is not heard. She is the subject of the man’s gaze and surveillance. Karim is attracted to her beauty; he sees her only as a body, as a woman who should submit to him and to his desire. He does not care about the social “hierarchy” between them although his friend, Adil, keeps advising him not to have a relationship with this woman, but he ignores him.

Nevertheless, Nabila seems to represent the bright side of Casablanca. She is an optimistic character. We never hear her saying Casanegra. Unlike Adil who is always screaming Casanegra which he has been using throughout the movie. This could be explained that she is living a happy luxurious life, away from the “dirt” of Casanegra whereas Karim and Adil’s life is full of unhappy events that cause them to see Casablanca through their hard circumstances. Basically, the choice of such linguistic forms reflects their psychological interior anxiety. And it could be seen as a disempowerment for them, a failure to face life so they escape in drugs and drinking alcohol for instance.

Karim at night goes with Adil to a corner in a very high building in the center of Casablanca, Adil screams “Casanegra”. Afterwards, Karim goes with Nabila to the same corner in the very high building, she was climbing even higher, wearing very tight clothes showing freedom, and she screams Casablanca with a very loud voice, trying to make herself heard; or as if she is trying to change the “black” reality of Casablanca. She calls for change, a change that “everyone is afraid of” according to Mernissi; probably because it is a change that seeks to decentre those who are already in the centre.

As stated before, Nabila goes to the night club with her friends. What is worth mentioning is the song she is dancing on with Karim in the night club; an optimistic song by Oum, a Moroccan westernized singer who sings in English. The song is entitled Hamdoulah (Thanks God in Arabic). The refrain goes as follows: “hamdoulah, for blessing my face, blessing my soul, giving me a piece of mind …When I’m feeling down, when I smile giving me strength, this is my dancing”. The song reflects the mood of the Moroccan woman living freedom.

The woman or chikha working in [Zrirek’s] night club is also portrayed as a, somehow, librated character, yet in a Moroccan traditional way in comparison to the Nabila. Chikha or chikhat (plural) are the kind of women who sing and dance in night clubs, some even smoke and drink alcohol, the case in the movie. But generally they have a bad reputation within the Moroccan society, therefore they are not respected. They are the type of women who are only for temporal fun, extremely objectified.

The language and taboo words the chikha in Casanegra uses as well as her actions (smoking and drinking alcohol) reveal her carelessness of what people think of her as a woman, a Moroccan woman. She has thrown values and social norms aside ignoring the extremely cultural power of hchouma [shame]. This latter seems to be a block of the freedom of Moroccan women. So by rejecting it they are free, at least from their perspective. She is defending chikhat when Adil criticizes them, so she seems proud of herself and profession. She is defined in the movie in relation to her profession.

She is a tough woman and very responsible as Zrirek says that “without her the night club wouldn’t keep going.” This might be motivated by having interest in the club for she will be the wife of the owner, Zrirek. Thus, is she really liberated? Or enslaved by man?

Ironically, the name of the night club where she works is: au Tout va bien (where everything is okay). It implies that outside is “Casanegra” and inside, the night club, everything is okay. Everyone escapes inside and forgets about the troubles of “Casanegra” by drinking, smoking, dancing and having fun.

In au tout va bien night club, a chikha is singing “kill me kill me, and close the door on me, till al Harizi (the man) comes and opens the door for me” (my translation), this indicates that even some Moroccan popular songs give power to men. They show how women are so dependent on men, and importantly the woman who is singing it, as if she is unconsciously disempowering herself.

Let’s not forget that the chikha remains throughout the movie inside her limited sphere, the night club; we never see her outside. So, is she herself escaping a bitter reality outside? Is she hiding inside the walls of “au tout va bien” and giving the illusion that she is all right? Would she be careless and not affected by hchouma when having a direct encounter with the society outside?

The actor who presented the chikha character is highly criticized; because women are usually expected to speak a good selective language and to behave in a certain way. The Moroccan audience seems shocked to see such behaviors on the Moroccan Cinema screen. The movie Casanegra is mostly watched individually; it is not a family movie. There is a great use of taboo words. The director explained this unexpected use of “street language” that it is the language of the ‘real’ Morocco, the language that we are confronted with in our daily life. He states that “we watch western movie which are full of worse insults and behaviors, still we like them and we don’t complain.” (In an interview with him in Mubachara ma’akum on 2m). The question that imposes itself here is, knowing that the scenarist and director of the movie is a Moroccan man who has lived in Norway for 20 years: Is the movie Casanegra itself a mimic of the west? In a Moroccan program where he was interviewed about Casanegra, he said that he was “disturbed by the postcards that represent Morocco in a folkloric way;” therefore, he wanted to show the ‘real’ Morocco, from his own perspective. Then, to what extent has he succeeded in representing the ‘real’ Morocco in the film?

In the movie, the mother of Adil is represented as a weak woman, victimized and silenced, we rarely hear her voice. Her first husband died, Adil’s father, and she got married again. Perhaps because she couldn’t resist living alone as a widow in the Moroccan society, so she got married seeking protection of man. This reminds me of a pertinent Moroccan proverb which states that “the shadow of a man is better than the shadow of a wall”, but is not the shadow of a wall better than the shadowing shadow of a man! Some men are in the family just the ‘present-absent’ subjects.

She is leading a miserable life with her second husband who mistreats her and uses her. She is a working woman; he beats her and takes the money she earns in order to buy alcohol. He treats her as a piece of furniture. He is much trivialized as a character; he cares about his little TV more than anything else; he threatens Adil to “cut him into pieces if he touches his TV.”

The woman, on the other hand, is very much victimized; portrayed as helpless. All she can do is cry. Her screaming seems not to be an act of rebellion but an act of defeat; when she couldn’t stand her husband beating her son, Adil. She is generally silent and when the violence causes silence, (one) must be mistaken. So who is to be blame here? The woman who submits to her husband and hopeless before him or the man who resorts to his physical strength to silence and domesticate the woman?

Adil is ready to do anything to defend his mother. While her husband is beating her, Adil defends his mother and hit his step-father with a chair on the head, which causes the fall of the authoritative aggressive man. However, and unexpectedly, the woman is yelling at her son who was trying to help her from the hands of her savage man. Naively, she is reminding her son not to “forget this man is my husband” and asking him to go away. As if it is her husband’s right to beat her, something expected and taken for granted. Probably, this is the reason why his violence is not resisted and fought against.

Adil encourages his mother to resist, and to go to declare all what her husband does to her in the police station. However, she is too vulnerable and frightened to suit her husband, though she admits that “she couldn’t resist (him) more.” Adil suggests that she goes to Taounat (A small town near Fez city) to his grandmother, and he finally could convince her. He provides her with all the money he has earned (or stolen). But she remains hesitative and anxious not to be called a “maskhouta” (Moroccan Arabic which means a naughty woman) in her village; for this is the second husband she escapes from. Actually her first husband died, as if it is her fault and she is the one to blame. She is afraid of the return, returning ‘home’. Her family will not understand her suffering and will only criticize and blame her for leaving her husband behind. Why is it a shame for a woman, but never for the man, to get divorce in the Moroccan society?

She is afraid to escape or get divorce from her husband. It is very likely that the audience would have been complaining or wondering why did she have to stay with him and stand all his dehumanizing? The wife usually sacrifices her life for the sake of her children, but this woman has no children with this husband. Is it because of a financial need of man? But she is the one who provides him with money, not the other way around; or perhaps an emotional attachment? The fear from the society and all their surface judgments could be another reason why she had to endure. When she has left, her husband asks Adil about her, and Adil replied him saying that “he brought shame to men.”

Society and the social norms have always preached that women’s space is limited in the domestic sphere: the house, it goes even further: kitchen. Besides, woman is expected to be dependent on man, simply because it is the man who is the lord of the house and the means of providence of the whole family. So everyone is under his mercy. In [Karim’s family], however, the standardized traditional spaces are somehow reversed, though the woman remains in the house – kitchen throughout the movie. Yet, it is the woman who is the lady of the house; her husband is very sick and the elder son, Karim, is not capable enough to take the family’s responsibility.

According to the Moroccan standards at least, she is an ideal Moroccan woman. She portrays a good image of a mother as well as a wife. Her husband is so sick, almost disable, and she has three children, among them Karim her elder son. She succeeds in doing her ‘duty’ as a woman in raising a good family.

Usually she gives advice to her son Karim and has authority over him in the kitchen where her voice can “be heard more easily (…) because under the patriarchal division of labor this is the space in which she [as a woman] has the greatest authority.” (Blunt, Alison. Writing Women and Space: colonial and postcolonial geographies. P: 2. 1994.) She encourages her son to get the job by el-Hajj [cleaning fish] to help supporting the family.

A woman taking responsibility in the family is not an easy task. Yet it is common in some Moroccan families. We often hear in the Moroccan society statements like: “a woman with no man is worth nothing.” But in Casanegra we see that the woman is almost everything and the other way around “a man with no woman is worth nothing.”

Karim is aware of the importance of educating girls. He brings an English dictionary to his sister because she needs it for school. Although he was made fun of when was seen with a book in his hands, he didn’t care. He did the impossible to bring the book to his sister. Importantly, it is a dictionary; a book which she would use to explain some complicated terms and concepts. Dictionary is the symbol of knowledge and learning, not any regular book. Likewise, he cares for the education of his little brother; he asks him whether he has gone to school that day. Karim is helping his sister and brother to learn and study, the thing that he seems to have been deprived of and missed.

The mother of Karim has a strong personality, unlike the mother of Adil who is completely submissive. She cares for her family. She cares for the reputation of her family. She does not have a narrow vision. She gives advice to her son. She questions the money that her son gives her; she does not accept whatever is given to her though there is a financial need in the family. Karim kissed her head showing respect; she is like a saint. She is rarely seen in the movie, yet she occupies an extremely important role.

She is not simply a passive woman in her kitchen cooking. She interacts and takes part in her family; she asks about her children and cares about their education, she makes decisions. When she is talking about her son’s friends, Adil, she addresses Karim saying “and you call (Adil) a friend”, this shows that she is not ignorant. She examines the friends of her children. She doesn’t believe the lies of Karim. She has a strong opinion. As a caring mother, she confirms the quote that “while men are concerned with an ‘ethic of justice’, women are more centered on an ‘ethics of care’.” (Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. P. 288) This is not the traditionally known “male-headed” family where there is “mastery” and “superiority”. But I would rather say a “female-headed” family.

As a conclusion of the second part; both women are unnamed. They are different women. One is submissive to her husband and not able to challenge him. The other is capable to take care of the whole family and take part in decision-making and lead a challenging life.

In the conclusion of my analysis of the Casanegra and the representation of women, I conclude that we cannot generalize and universalize Moroccan women experiences and differences. There are different categories of women: Nabila who is leading a Western life and independent from men, Chikha who ignores the society and its power, the good mother and wife who serves her family, and the woman who is re-married.

The women in the film are somehow empowered, Nabila has the power to control the fate of the man, while chikha intrudes the male space. The mother of Karim is not a passive woman who obeys men, but she controls the family. And the mother of Adil, who might look a victim, the fact that she left her husband behind reveals her power. The prostitute, who is defending the homosexual, is very important as well; she sees it as her duty to help the ‘man’. Although the movie has no feminist agenda, but it suggests reconsidering and revising the idea of the passive woman, the woman who is imprisoned in her house, or veil and is disempowered by men.

Read Full Post »

This article is based on Mostapha al-Messnaoui’s book Abhat fi Cinema al Maghribiya (Research on Moroccan Cinema, 2001). I will focus mainly on the first chapter that deals with the beginnings of Cinema in Morocco and how the French colonialism influenced it, followed by the three phases of colonial cinema in Morocco and then the extent to which Moroccan cinema could detach itself from the colonial legacy after independence.

The beginnings of Cinema in Morocco are blurred; in the sense that it is debated whether it dates back to the pre official appearance of Cinema in 1896 namely to the “detective film”: Al-Fariss al-Barbari (The Berber Knight) made by Jules Etiennes Marey in 1885 using the chronophotography technique, or to the era between 1895 and 1905 that is the era in which the “Viewer’s Catalogue” was assembled; it belongs to the French company Lumière, about 1800 short film made by the company at that time, including about 60 films on North Africa, only one film on Morocco entitled Rai’ al-ma’iz al-Maghribi (The Moroccan Goat Herder). But are we talking about Moroccan films here? This kind of film represents “the natives” as the Other, a static object that fits the decoration and background.

Al-Messnaoui explains that the criteria of a Moroccan film are not reduced in filming a film in Morocco with a Moroccan décor, nor in engaging Moroccan “actors” about whom we know only their names, nor through tackling Moroccan-like themes, these are only films made by foreigners on Morocco, far from the reality in Morocco. What is worth calling a Moroccan film is rather made by a Moroccan director who portrays the reality of Morocco from an internal perspective, not a superior one, starting from the lived reality not the eroticized one which serves a particular colonial agenda or give a picturesque Oriental superior view looking down upon the “natives” as “primitive,” “savage” and “exotic.”

When the French photographer and journalist, Félix Mesguich, came to Casablanca at the period when it was being attacked by the French colonial forces he stated that “when we reached [Casablanca through the sea] the smoke was rising from the city because of the bombings. A sailors’ group led us to the French consulate. I photographed some scenes of the soldiers in the deserted streets covered by dead bodies, from which a fetid smell rose with clouds of flies.” Clearly, from this description, the view expressed by Mesguich is the colonial gaze; the city that is burning does not make him feel a sense of disapproval, it is just like the “fetid smell” of the Moroccan citizens’ dead bodies.The quote shows how proud the French photographer is filming these Moroccan dead soldiers while he is protected by the French consulate. Al-Messnaoui argues that the gaze to the French occupation to Casablanca would have certainly been different if a Moroccan photographer were behind the camera, picturing what had been done by Moroccans as a legal resistance, not simply a barbaric act committed by “primitive” Riffians outside of civilization.

Morocco for France and the West, in general, is the same it doesn’t change; therefore, its image remains the same in the colonial cinema, perpetuating the same stereotypes about the “natives” and their inferiority vis-à-vis the superior West.

France attempted, following the Second World War, to establish a “Moroccan” cinema, supervised and directed by French cinematographers and addresses “Moroccan” stories cooperated by Moroccan “actors.” Here, too, we cannot talk about Moroccan Cinema, as long as it is only a diversification of the colonial orientation of cinema in Morocco; for this “Moroccan Cinema” is considered (under colonization) synonymous to local popular tales or “A Thousand and One Nights” tales or Molière’s plays within a Moroccan frame.

If it is hard to get rid of the colonial cinema easily; as much as it is also hard to integrate in its history. For Al-Messnaoui, the colonial cinema left clear scars on Moroccan Cinema, since the former is an essential phase of the latter.

The Phases of Colonial Cinema

Al-Messnaoui stages three main phases of the Colonial Cinema in Morocco;

The first phase is characterized by focusing on the exotic side of the Maghreb, this confirms the Westerners’ constructed image of the Islamic East as being aggressive and primitive. For the colonial directors the Arabic-Islamic civilization with its values, religion, and its view of the world, is totally different, and even contradictory, with the Western civilization that is much more civilized. Nevertheless it is a place of mysteriousness, stirring amazement and imagination. From this ambivalent state, most of these directors managed to make their films in Morocco and on Morocco, not because it is a separated land from the rest of the Arab world, but for it is the closest model to and on Europe.

Thus, the themes of the colonial film did not go beyond strangeness, fancy, magic, violent reactions, and the fatal jealousy, as its visual field did not go beyond sand, palm trees, camel caravans, the mosques’ towers, narrow streets, the burning sun, and its stories on love and adventure. The colonial films basically address the Western audience, so it is acceptable to marginalize “the natives” and transform them to “accessories” that fit the background where the European heroes move freely.

The hero of the colonial film is mostly a thief, a fugitive murderer, a bankrupt rich man, or one escaping from romantic failure, and then comes to Morocco to forget his worries or to hide his murder. Most of the times this hero ends with glory (soldier always) able to retrieve his money and his lover, or receive forgiveness for his crime.

Apparently in the second phase the “Moroccan” character has a better position in the colonial cinema, no more an object but a human. Yet, what sort of human? The “native” man is usually presented as naturally evil, bloodthirsty and murderous, and the “native” woman as a sorcerer, a belly dancer or a prostitute, or a very beautiful woman (always a Western actor who would play this role) of whom the young European officer falls in love with, and she might share him love but the end is never happy because of “the traditions, values and religious customs” which forbid marriage between a Moroccan woman and a nsrani (Christian man).

In this phase a Moroccan might contribute in providing a certain idea to the film with which the director wants to a give a local touch. This did happen in the film Wardat al Souq (or Arih achatwiya) the second Moroccan film of Jack Sepherac but it is about a “popular tale” that has nothing to do with real life. The attempt of the colonial director to get closer to the Moroccan reality was a failure, because he addresses reality through a fictional story. This film, however, led to the appearance of the first article in the Moroccan Cinema criticism by Mohammed al-Omari himself, in the form of a letter in French sent to the director in 1931 where he congratulates him for the film and celebrates it as a film that does not wound the dignity of Muslims and that it is within a Moroccan frame and characters.

Perhaps, a number of intellectuals would have shared this opinion because all what they asked from cinema was to display a Moroccan space with Moroccan characters, without having the thought to film a local film on reality because such films were needed in the colonial era to help in achieving independence not glorifying the colonial presence and portraying the colonizer as civilizing from one side, and as the most powerful that should be submitted to avoiding its anger from the other. This would have not affected the Moroccan audience anyway, who were mostly influenced by the Egyptian Cinema, for the fact that it is closer to their Arab culture and language. Therefore, to fight against the great influence of the Egyptian Cinema on the Moroccan society and to avoid the danger it might cause in developing awareness among Moroccans, a new vision was suggested to the Colonial Cinema that is establishing a local “Moroccan Cinema” that targets “the natives.” And here the third and final phase in Colonial Cinema starts.

The third phase: in harmony with the new vision, the French filmmakers made in Morocco several films targeting only Moroccans. Thus, in two years only, 1946-1947,  about 12 films appeared all spoken by the local Moroccan Arabic, or rather in both Moroccan Arabic and French, starting by the film Yassmina. But the claimed Moroccan films were not welcomed by the Moroccans. This was explained by the French critic G. Hennebelle due to the absence of reality in these films, the Moroccan viewer does not find his real representation or his political ambitions in it.

Later, France will learn from its Moroccan “mistakes,” so it sent to Paris in 1958 about 15 candidates to pursue a training in the High Institute of Cinema (I. D. H. E. C.), but that was too late, for most of these candidates, after finishing their training served the “Independence National Movement” and filmed the first real Algerian feature films on armed resistance.

To conclude, Cinema in Morocco has been greatly influenced by colonialism. Colonial films cannot be considered or included within Moroccan Cinema, simply because the former marginalizes, and other times it distorts, everything that is Moroccan. In addition, Colonial Cinema was largely targeting a Western audience. Al-Messnaoui comes to the conclusion that there is no Moroccan Cinema unless it detaches itself from the colonial heritage and moves forward.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »