Hip-hop From Casablanca Arrives In Cannes
Nabil Ayouch says he can hardly believe his picture, “Casablanca Beats,” is the first Moroccan film to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in nearly 60 years.
It’s as if “I was a youngster and I’ve always walked past a bakery with a wonderful chocolate eclair in the window that I’ve never been permitted to enjoy – and now I can,” the director told AFP.
After Abdelaziz Ramdani’s “Ames et rythmes” in 1962, he is only the second Moroccan film to be selected for the official selection at Cannes.
The French-Moroccan director’s seventh movie, “Casablanca Beats,” is about young people finding an outlet through hip hop.
“They have so many things to tell, but they don’t have the instruments to tell them,” Ayouch, 52, said.
It takes place in Sidi Moumen, a run-down neighborhood that gained notoriety in 2003 after a group of radicalized local youngsters carried out 33 suicide bombs across the city.
Ayouch is not a newcomer to the area.
His 2012 film “Horses of God,” which was based on a novel by Moroccan painter and author Mahi Binebine and included non-professional actors from the neighborhood, following two brothers from childhood through the day they decided to become suicide bombers.
He also filmed sequences for his indie smash “Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets” there over a decade ago.
Ayouch established the Stars Cultural Centre in the impoverished region in 2014, which offers music, dancing, and other programs.
The center, according to the filmmaker, offered the concept for the fictional “Casablanca Beats” as well as a large portion of the cast.
He remembered, “I went to few classes and it was absolutely fantastic to see them dance and listen to their lyrics.”
“I wanted the entire world to hear what they had to say,” says the author.
In Morocco, the presence of “Casablanca Beats” at the Cannes Film Festival, which runs till Saturday, has been well received.
That contrasts with his last film, “Much Loved,” a honest look at prostitution in the country that sparked outrage online and even death threats.
The film premiered at Cannes in 2015, but it was prohibited in Morocco because it harmed the country’s image and was “an affront to moral principles and Moroccan women,” according to authorities.
“The ‘Much Loved’ episode isn’t completely forgotten, but the scars have mostly healed and my resolve hasn’t wavered,” Ayouch remarked.
He continued, “I want my films to travel, but my natural audience is the Moroccan public.”
“Those who claim I profit from other people’s pain are mistaken. Brief News from Washington Newsday.