Rough Hands

Some working-class Casablanca residents try to beat the system in devious ways in "Rough Hands," the wobbly second feature from helmer-writer Mohamed Asli.

With: Mohamed Bastaoui, Houda Rihana, Abdessamad Miftahakhair, Amina Rachid.

Some working-class Casablanca residents try to beat the system in devious ways in “Rough Hands,” the wobbly second feature from helmer-writer Mohamed Asli. Although he fails to establish the singular tone of his much more accomplished debut, “In Casablanca Angels Don’t Fly,” Asli still manages to suggest the frustrations of contempo life in Morocco for those who lack money and influence. Further fest travel seems likely.

Kindly but illiterate barber Mustapha (played with comic oiliness by Mohamed Bastaoui) lives with his blind mother and operates a side business in false documents and political favors through his intimate contact with retired power brokers. His schoolteacher neighbor (Houda Rihana) tries to pass herself off as a field worker to obtain a Spanish visa, using a treatment to coarsen her hands as part of the disguise. Meanwhile, inveterate gambler Said (Abdessamad Miftahakhair) works as Mustapha’s accountant but also spies on him and his clients for an unidentified boss. A fancy wedding finale, with Berber singers providing local color, epitomizes the pic’s uneasy mix of melodrama, comedy, music and social commentary. Tech credits are serviceable.

Rough Hands


Production: A Dagham Film production. (International sales: Intra Movies, Rome.) Produced by Mohamed Asli. Executive producer, Noureddine Douguena. Directed, written by Mohamed Asli.

Crew: Camera (color), Giovanni Battista Marras; editor, Raimondo Aiello; music, Stephan Micus, Saro Cosentino; production designer, Mohamed Bouhfid. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 14, 2011. (Also in Abu Dhabi Film Festival -- New Horizons.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With: With: Mohamed Bastaoui, Houda Rihana, Abdessamad Miftahakhair, Amina Rachid.

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