British Moroccan writer-director Fyzal Boulifa tells the story with style, of a mother-son in a difficult relationship while moving from Casablanca to Tangier, and once there, from place to place with their belongings in bags, sharing a mattress on the floor to sleep in tiny rooms or even in the street. The mother is middle-aged Fatima Zahra (Aicha Tebbae) and her teenage son is Selim (Abdellah El Hajjouji).
Beautifully shot and acted, there are nods to Federico Fellini´s Nights of Cabiria and Pier Paolo Pasolini´s Mamma Roma.
Fatima Zahra lives her life freely, doing what she pleases, and her traditional Arab family refers to her as a modern woman since she wanted a career… in regard, one of her sisters remarks bitterly that a career meant opening her legs for the first drunk man she found. While looking for shelter and visiting Fatima Zahra’s “father´s” home we learn about her pregnancy and also that there is no place for her nor her son in the house. Selim also learns that he has been living a lie concerning his father, God rests his soul, and names a real man after his mother.
This profoundly human drama develops as a comedy of manners portraiting social mores in 21st Century Marrakesh between locals and foreigners (with reminiscences of colonial history) and how Fatima Zahra and Selim fit into that. Of special interest is the magic sequence when Fatima Zahra, following her aunt’s steps, visits a cave and makes her offerings.
While Fatima Zahra one more time is attracted to a man, a married bus driver that’s kind to them, we see how Selim interacts in the new city, finds Abdou, a job, and meets Sébastien in the Kasbah district. With more downs than ups, the mother-son relationship evolves in a kind of mirrored one, to an end that speaks volumes while Fatima Zahra claps and joins a group of locals walking and dancing in the street celebrating a wedding.
The Belgian-Morrocan production was at Giornate degli autori (the indie film section) at the Venice Film Festival 2022 and was nominated for the prestigious Queer Lion.
PS To discover where this film is screening/streaming next check firstname.lastname@example.org
Review by José Mayorga , Guatemala, Central America lawyer and notary public, visual artist, and editor of El Azar Cultural, lives and works in Guatemala City. Cinema lover, curious about the possibilities life brings and eager to live the experience.
Labels: 2022, Abdellah El Hajjouji, Aicha Tebbae, drama, Fyzal Boulifa, Morrocan, review