'Traitors' Review: Sean Gullette's Well-Meaning Debut

Sean Gullette's predictable if well-meaning feature debut follows a young punk rocker from Tangiers desperate to earn money.

A young punk rocker from Tangiers takes desperate measures to earn money in “Traitors,” a predictable if well-meaning feature debut for American thesp-turned-writer-helmer Sean Gullette (star of Darren Aronofsky’s “Pi”). Clearly keen to show another side of urban, semi-Westernized North African culture, Gullette strains to make the outcome upbeat, which damages credibility somewhat. Still, lead thesp Chaimae Ben Acha has charisma, and the pic makes the most of a manifestly low budget. Fests will be loyal to “Traitors,” but distribution beyond the region and maybe France looks tricky.

Tomboy Malika (Ben Acha) is the lead singer of an all-girl beat combo called Traitors. When a producer offers to help her cut a demo if she can pay for the studio, she has to work at her mechanic father’s garage. There she meets minor gangster Samir (Mourade Zeguendi), who offers a fat stack of notes if she’ll help smuggle hashish from Morocco. Border controls, meaner gangsters and a loose-cannon fellow mule (Soufia Issami) rep predictable impediments. Still, it’s nice to see a depiction of an Arabic woman with ambitions beyond marriage, and the pic offers a lively depiction of Tangiers’ subcultures.

Film Review: 'Traitors'

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Venice Days), Sept. 5 2013. Running time: 83 MIN.

Production

(Morocco-United States) A Sharjah Art Foundation presentation of a Kasbah Films, White Light White Heat production. (International sales: Rezo Films, Paris.) Produced by Karim Debbagh, Sean Gullette, Audrey Rosenberg.

Crew

Directed, written by Sean Gullette. Camera (color, HD), Benoit Peverelli, Niko Tavernise; editor, Sabine Hoffman; music, Nathan Larson; art director, Shara Shisheboran; costume designer, Gery Georgieva; sound (stereo), Jacob Ribicoff.

With

Chaimae Ben Acha, Soufia Issami, Driss Roukhe, Mourade Zeguendi, Morjana Alaoui. (Arabic, French, English dialogue)

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