×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rabat

Three Dutch boys of Maghrebi origin travel by car from the Low Countries to Morocco in "Rabat," a road movie that gently moves from cliches to more nuanced characterization.

With:
With: Nasrdin Dchar, Achmed Akkabi, Marwan Kenzari, Slimane Dazi, Jaqueline Bir, Stephane Caillard, Mohamed Majd, Zakaria Tamadou, Mohammed Benbrahim, Nadia Kounda, Ahmed Gnaoui, Daniel Caballero, Marc Garcia. (Dutch, Moroccan Arabic, French, Spanish, English dialogue)

Three Dutch boys of Maghrebi origin travel by car from the Low Countries to Morocco in “Rabat,” a road movie that gently moves from cliches to more nuanced characterization. Feature debut by Dutch musicvid helmers Jim Taihuttu and Victor Ponten starts off conventionally but slowly finds its footing, with the film’s tone finally moving between gentle comedy and more serious material. Modest independent production is well acted and looks fine, and was an unexpected local crowdpleaser, bagging a picture nomination at the Netherlands’ national film awards, as well as an actor win for charismatic lead Nasrdin Dchar.

Opening at a Muslim wedding in Amsterdam, the pic quickly sketches the friendship of buddies Abdel (Achmed Akkabi), from Tunisia; soccer fanatic Zakaria (Marwan Kenzari), of Moroccan origin; and the slightly older Nadir (Dchar), who is driving his father’s 15-year-old taxi to the titular city in Morocco. All three were born or spent most of their lives in the Netherlands, though each one clearly grew up between two cultures.

At the crack of dawn the next day, Nadir gets ready for the 1,900-mile drive across Europe and finds that his friends have decided to join him, immediately complicating what should have been a simple delivery job. It’s clear from the start Nadir hasn’t been entirely honest with his mates about the real reasons for this long journey.

Their trip is initially episodic; each country they pass through is conveniently captioned onscreen, and each stop introduces a new character or situation that is then quickly disposed of. In Gaul, a sweet old lady mistakes them for actual taxi drivers, leading to a cute but prolonged scene in which they drive her home. Not much later, the three pick up an equally sweet, though much younger and sexier, passenger (Stephane Caillard) who’s headed for Barcelona.

It’s in the Spanish section that “Rabat” really finds it footing, toying with auds’ expectations as the Muslim boys encounter a few gay men, and some physical violence is thrown into the mix. Rather than conforming to facile stereotypes or settling for an equally facile can’t-we-just-all-get-along vibe, the pic chooses a wonderfully observant stance that finally reveals its protagonists as flawed but very real individuals.

Helmers Taihuttu (himself partly of Maluku extraction) and Ponten also wrote the screenplay, and they avoid easy generalizations about immigrant kids, perfectly setting up the film’s bittersweet final stretch. Shot in sequence, the film quickly gains in poignancy as the titular destination comes into view, a hilarious detour involving a crazy Moroccan who runs a junkyard notwithstanding.

In keeping with generally sober, no-frills approach and tone, tech package and acting keep things natural. Charismatic and pensive Dchar (“Tirza,” “Lotus”) is indeed the standout, though at least in part because he has the meatiest role. Bit parts are all perfectly cast.

Pic was shot without Dutch Film Fund or TV money, with the directors’ own production company Habbekrats (a slang word that means “Next to Nothing”) putting up a good part of the budget, reportedly just over $400,000.

Rabat

Netherlands

Production: A Benelux Film Distributors release of a Habbekrats presentation and production, in association with Inspire Pictures, Lebowski Publishers, Top Notch, Fei Prods., Likeminds. Produced by Julius Ponten, Frieder Wallis. Directed, written by Jim Taihuttu, Victor Ponten.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Lennart Verstegen; editor, Wouter van Luijn; music, Joris Titawano, Gino Taihuttu; production designer, Lieke Scholman; costume designer, Lee Stuart; sound, Michael Sauvage. Reviewed at Netherlands Film Festival (competing), Sept. 27, 2011. Running time: 103 MIN.

With: With: Nasrdin Dchar, Achmed Akkabi, Marwan Kenzari, Slimane Dazi, Jaqueline Bir, Stephane Caillard, Mohamed Majd, Zakaria Tamadou, Mohammed Benbrahim, Nadia Kounda, Ahmed Gnaoui, Daniel Caballero, Marc Garcia. (Dutch, Moroccan Arabic, French, Spanish, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT Miramax has acquired film rights to Lauren Iungerich’s holiday-themed screenplay “I [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan arrives at the

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Warner Bros.' 'Methuselah' Movie

    Michael B. Jordan will produce and star in a “Methuselah” movie for Warner Bros., based on the Biblical story of a man who lived to be 969 years old. Jordan will produce through his Outlier Society production company along with Heyday’s David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. Warner Bros. has been developing the project for many [...]

  • Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping

    Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping Italy's Top Film Awards

    Piera Detassis recently became the first woman to head the David di Donatello Awards, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars. Since then she’s been busy overhauling the inner workings of the prizes that will be awarded on Wednesday. Detassis, also the editor of Italian film publication Ciak, spoke exclusively to Variety about the challenges she’s faced [...]

  • Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards

    Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards Race

    With 15 nominations Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” leads the pack of contenders for Italy’s David di Donatello Awards in a watershed year for the country’s top film nods that sees highbrow auteur titles reaping most of the David love just as local box-office grosses hit an all-time low. Garrone’s gritty revenge drama is followed closely with [...]

  • steven spielberg Apple TV Plus

    Steven Spielberg's Apple Appearance Riles Up Social Media: 'Big Old Mixed Message'

    Many Hollywood heavyweights flocked to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to help reveal the tech giant’s revamped steaming service Apple TV+ on Monday — but one such legend was so polarizing he became a national trending topic on Twitter for simply showing his face. Steven Spielberg was the first to appear in a dramatic short film [...]

  • Michael Lynne

    Former New Line Co-Chairman Michael Lynne Dies at 77

    Michael Lynne, the former co-chairman of New Line Cinema who played a key role in shepherding “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, has died at his New York home. He was 77. Lynne’s death was confirmed Monday by longtime business partner Robert Shaye, who told Variety that Lynne’s family had informed him of Lynne’s passing [...]

  • Marisa Liston

    Sony Veteran Marisa Liston to Lead Lionsgate Movie Publicity

    Lionsgate has named Sony Pictures veteran executive Marisa Liston to lead all feature film and motion picture group publicity and communications strategy. Liston, who departed Sony in late 2018 after 17 years, has been assigned the newly created title of head of global earned media and communications. She will oversee domestic and international feature film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content