Players in the Moroccan film scene
An upscale Film Industry pic, “Les aretes du coeur” (“Hearts’ Edges”) played at Montreal, Montpellier and Mannheim. Tale is slight: Set in a seaside hamlet of hovels, a fisherman’s widow confronts her adoptive son’s desire to take to the sea. But Ayouch’s humor-laced debut has a painterly beauty, a marvelous cast of rude womenfolk, and a sense of the pull of the sea — and tragedy — which is memorably achieved.
Co-directed with Istanbul-born Taylan Barman, Boucif’s 2001 debut “Au-dela de Gibraltar” (“Beyond Gibraltar”) was a nuanced tale of across-the-tracks love in an immigrant quarter of Brussels — a measured but compassionate look at ethnic tension and generational divides. Now packaging financing for “Les Larmes d’argent,” turning on the relationship between a French officer and Moroccan conscript in World War II, presented at San Sebastian’s Cinema in Motion.
Welcome to Moroccan pulp fiction. Riffing off Johnnie To, John Woo and Sergio Leone, “The Envelope,” another Film Industry pic, is a deceptively breezy shoot-’em-up mixing kickboxing slugfests, past-their-prime mobsters, sleaze, drug wars and a sleek killer who chomps on a good cigar while drilling into rival goons’ skulls. Chkiri has made nine Film Industry films: Watch out for the “Ring”-esque “Elle” and the neorealist “The Pillow.” A prolific, audience-minded genre buff.
“The Brigade,” Morocco’s first cop drama, was a straight-off-the-bat hit. In its souped-up intro, the unit strides towards the camera, sunglassed, Tarantino-style. Male officers sport huge-barreled guns, a femme cop a sexy shoulder gunstrap. “Brigade” pushes hot buttons: pedophilia, rape, drugs.
Action might be standard-issue, but made on $17,350 an episode, it’s a wonder that there’s much action at all. And Fadili directs with chutzpah, using ripe colors and sophisticated depth of field — there’s never a boring frame.
HICHAM FALAH AND MOHAMED CHRIF TRIBAK
With a camera stationed on a walkway above the Atlantic, Falah and Chrif Tribak’s short “Balcon Atlantico” portrayed the lives of passers-by on a seaside boardwalk. The directorial duo are now prepping a flagship North African production: the high-end ($1.5 million) “In Brackets,” a painstakingly documented dramedy about Morocco’s last politicized generation of students, to be played by contemporary scholars. A project — and two groundbreaking helmers — to track.
“The Sleeping Child” chronicles a just-married woman pining for news from her husband in Spain, and as that fades, how she deals with his absence. Magnificently composed — in framing and pace — complex and filmed with precision, “Child” hauntingly exposed the flip side of immigration, copping shelves of fest plaudits. Another powerful, articulate distaff presence in Morocco.
“The Affair” nails corruption, is immaculately lensed and, typically for Lakhmari, forcefully perfed. Beyond nine more “Affair” telepics, Lakhmari helms his second feature, “Casanegra,” in February, a handheld, washed-out buddy movie, Moroccan “Mean Streets”-style.
Islamic fundamentalists bayed for its boycott; one MP demanded its 12-year ban. All for Marrakchi’s debut “Marock,” a gutsy film with fresh actors — think “American Graffiti” in Casablanca — which faithfully rendered Casablanca rich kids’ lives and the first love between a Jewish boy and Arab girl. “Marock,” which bowed uncut, topped 2006 B.O. charts. Next up, “a Tangier-set working-class pic,” says Marrakchi.
With actor-producer Mohammed Marouazi, the highly active Triqui heads Thelsem, an emerging TV production house. Her shorts — “Life Goes On,” “Blank Ink,” “Flow River” — turn on simple events: In the best, “River,” a boy skips school to go fishing, seeking a second father-figure, and toying with a trade. All are knit with a feminine sensibility, often making telling use of graphics, fitting style to theme. Having shot soap “Maria Massar,” she aims is developing a big TV series.