Kino Lorber has acquired the North American rights to “Casablanca Beats” and plans to push the film for awards consideration.
The film, which is Morocco’s official submission to the 94th Academy Awards, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was warmly embraced by critics. It’s director Nabil Ayouch’s fifth film to be submitted by the country. Kino Lorber previously released Ayouch’s film “Horses of God” in 2012, which was also an Oscar submission.
In “Casablanca Beats,” a former rapper takes a job at a cultural center in an underprivileged neighborhood in Casablanca. Encouraged by their new teacher, his students try to break free from the weight of restrictive traditions in order to live their passions and express themselves through the arts. The film draws inspiration from Ayouch’s experience growing up in a working-class suburb in France, where he found a creative outlet in a local community center and a way to escape his sometimes-violent surroundings. Ayouch later founded “The Stars of Sidi Moumen” Cultural Center in Casablanca, which is featured in the film along with many of its students, and has touched the lives of thousands of boys and girls.
Variety’s Jessica Kiang liked the film. In a largely positive review, she wrote, “It’s perhaps a little glib to make a choral event of a hip-hop musical when hip-hop is so much a medium for individual creative expression — for a single voice to speak its truth — but it’s hard to argue when the results are this energetic, this empowering and this irresistibly youthful.”
“When we saw Casablanca Beats at Cannes, we instantly knew it was the perfect film for the moment,” said Kino Lorber Senior Vice President Wendy Lidell. “Not only are musicals back in the zeitgeist, but the film’s powerful and exuberant message about how art can change the trajectory of a young person’s life, and how freedom of expression can unwrite a history of repression, resonate as strongly today as ever.”
“These young people are full of energy and positivity,” added Ayouch. “In a lively and contemporary Casablanca, far from the clichés about the Arab world, they express their desires and their hunger for freedom through hip hop. Their only weapons are their words. And they deserve to be heard everywhere.”
The deal was negotiated by Wendy Lidell of Kino Lorber, Eva Diederix of Wild Bunch International, and CAA Media Finance. Kino Lorber will release “Casablanca Beats” theatrically in the U.S. and Canada in early 2022, followed by a digital release on its streaming service Kino Now and other platforms.