×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

On the Plank

Impressive direction doesn't entirely compensate for script weaknesses in Leila Kilani's visually accomplished debut.

With:
With: Soufia Issami, Mouna Bahmad, Nouzha Akel, Sara Betioui. (Moroccan Arabic dialogue)

Impressive direction doesn’t entirely compensate for script weaknesses in Leila Kilani’s visually accomplished debut “On the Plank.” Set in Tangier among a group of four young women who turn to petty theft, the pic boldly explores the hierarchy of factory workers along with the schizophrenic nature of the city, strikingly captured via Eric Devin’s assured lensing. Kilani’s script, however, sags midway and doesn’t deliver on its initial promise, though the former docu helmer (“Our Forbidden Places”) stakes a good claim as a director to watch. Fests will appreciate her audacity, especially now that spotlights are turning to Arab cinema.

International fest play is assured thanks to the number and profile of production grants awarded, including San Sebastian’s Cinema in Motion, the Berlinale’s Co-Production Market, and Abu Dhabi’s Sanad. Indie arthouse distrib Epicentre will be releasing in France, but wider exposure in cinemas is unlikely.

Peeling shrimp is one of the lowest rungs on the work ladder, due to lousy pay and a pungent smell that’s almost impossible to wash off. Badia (Soufia Issami) and her friend Imane (Mouna Bahmad) are 20-year-olds from Casablanca working in a shrimp-processing factory in Tangier; they have no ties to the city and little chance of enjoying its distractions. Imane is fairly placid, while Badia is obsessive, speaking in rapid spurts and frenetically scrubbing her body to rid herself of the lingering odor.

More than anything, Badia wants to work in the textile plants of the Free Zone, a tightly controlled enclave just beyond Tangier where business regulations are in line with European practices. The employees there are the privileged few among the working class, boastful of their status and dismissive of those beneath them. Badia and Imane meet textile workers Nawal (Nouzha Akel) and Asma (Sara Betioui), joining forces in small robberies of goods they fence for the extra dough and the thrill that comes from turning outlaw.

This is the jumping-off board of the pic’s title, a metaphorical dive into a world where opportunities aren’t handed out but taken. While initially amused by Badia’s desperate fearlessness, Nawal and Asma aren’t willing to make the same all-or-nothing plunge: They have families in Tangier, along with the privileges that come from working in the Free Zone.

The script begins to feel repetitive around midpoint, and the initial drive no longer keeps pace with the visual energy. Even more than the story of these four women, the film is a tale of two cities, or rather, multiple cities, since Tangier is shown as a fractured locale whose social divisions are subtly underscored; the sterile lines and globalized modernity of the Free Zone are in marked contrast to Tangier’s grittiness.

Kilani’s debuting actresses are an impressive foursome, with special mention going to the intense Issami and the bewitching Akel. Their strengths stand up to the striking lensing, bristling with a nervous energy that favors shallow focus and forceful closeups. Nighttime shooting reveals an unsettling world whose sense of danger adds greatly to the pic’s feeling of anxiety.

On the Plank

France-Morocco-Germany

Production: An Epicentre Films (in France) release of an Aurora Films, Socco Chico Films, DKB Prods., INA, Vandertastic production. (International sales: Fortissimo, Amsterdam.) Produced by Charlotte Vincent, Leila Kilani. Co-producers, Emmanuel Barrault, Gerald Collas, Hanneke Van der Tas. Directed, written by Leila Kilani.

Crew: Camera (color), Eric Devin; editor, Tina Baz; music, Wilfried Blanchard (Wilkimix); production designers, Yann Dury, Fatima Alaoui Ben Hassan; costume designer, Ayda Diouri; sound (Dolby SRD), Philippe Lecoeur, Laurent Malan. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 19, 2011. Running time: 109 MIN.

With: With: Soufia Issami, Mouna Bahmad, Nouzha Akel, Sara Betioui. (Moroccan Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content