“Dance of Outlaws”

In "Dance of Outlaws," Mohamed El Aboudi's accomplished docu, a young woman's double stigma -- raped and deprived by her shamed family of her identity card -- reveals the catch-22 trapping many impoverished Moroccan girls.

In “Dance of Outlaws,” Mohamed El Aboudi’s accomplished docu, a young woman’s double stigma — raped and deprived by her shamed family of her identity card — reveals the catch-22 trapping many impoverished Moroccan girls. Hind lives on the edge of legality (respectability isn’t an option), hoping to get the necessary documents from her estranged family to allow her to take advantage of her rights. The helmer’s camera inadvertently helps and hinders her quest, turning the docu into a commentary on the unavoidable disruption caused by even the smallest camera crew. “Outlaws” will be inscribed on many a fest’s dance card.

Hind was raped and impregnated at 15; her family kicked her out, since her “value” as a marriageable virgin was gone. When the helmer meets her, she’s already had three kids (one given up, one dead, the third looked after by Bouchra, a woman who demands payment before handing back the child) and works in the barely respectable profession of wedding dancer. It’s one step away from prostitution, though unquestionably Hind has resorted to that as well.

She lives with her b.f., Bilal, in a one-room cement home, trapped in a no man’s land of legality: Since she has no papers, she can’t get a lease, take advantage of social services or find a legitimate job. She can’t even get papers for her daughter or the baby on the way. Though terrified of being beaten by her family, Hind goes back home to try to get her birth certificate, without which an ID card is impossible.

To her surprise, the family makes a show of emotion and warmth, but the necessary certificate doesn’t appear and her parents tell her to come back without El Aboudi’s camera. That’s when it becomes clear: The documentary itself has become part of the story, an inevitability that’s too rarely acknowledged by most nonfiction helmers.

Self-defeating and self-pitying, Hind isn’t an especially likable figure. Bouchra is far more sympathetic even if she’s essentially holding Hind’s child for ransom. At least she seems to genuinely care for the girl, and appears to be waiting until she knows Hind can properly look after her. In the end, however, Hind’s personality is beside the point: What options does a poor, illiterate, “deflowered” young woman in Morocco have to make a life for herself? The answer in “Dance of Outlaws” is all too depressing.

Visuals are problem-free, boasting satisfying compositions and a strong sense of framing. The docu also exists in a ready-for-TV 58-minute version.

Dance of Outlaws

Finland-Norway

Production

A Kudos Family Distribution (in Norway) release of an Illume, Road Movies, Piraya Film production, in cooperation with YLE Documentaries. (International sales, Illume, Helsinki.) Produced by Venla Hellstedt. Co-producer, Torstein Grude. Executive producers, Pertti Veijalainen, Timo Korhonen. Directed, written by Mohamed El Aboudi.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Marita Hallfors; editor, Erik Andersson; music, Juuso Hannukainen, Mikko Rajala; sound, Martti Turunen. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Critics' Week), Aug. 7, 2012. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Hind, Bilal, Bouchra. (Moroccan Arabic dialogue)
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