Morocco is an interesting country--with a rich multi-cultural past that is somehow being overlooked by the predominant Muslim population. The cosmopolitan history of the city of Tangiers, before Morocco gained its independence, is captured in the 1976 novel by Angel Vasquez Juanita, which the director Farida Benliyazid courageously decided to adapt in this film.
There is a certain maturity that this film embodies--it is not often that directors pick up a subject centered on an anti-heroine. Directors prefer to deal with beautiful women, heroic and larger than life. Here is a quaint example of a lady director choosing to film a novel on the life of a "wretched woman," a spinster, and over-critical of life around her while coming to terms with political, social and pecuniary changes that affect her for the worse. Actress Mariola Fuentes, who plays the lead, interprets the unremarkable character with considerable restraint.
At the recent Dubai Film Festival, Ms Benliyazid stated to the audience that the subject of the film is very close to the present day Dubai--multi-cultural, multi-religious, and tolerant. The film does capture the incredible tolerance between Jews, Muslims, and Christians that must have existed in the past. I have been to Morocco twice this year, but this multi-cultural tolerance is not apparent today as the Morocco of the early 20th Century as has been portrayed in this film.
This is not a "wretched" film; it is merely a film on a "wretched" individual that will serve as a cultural memory for Moroccans of the current generation. I wish to compare this film to three Moroccan films made in the last two years that have won accolades around the world. Compared to Mohammad Asli's film "In Casablanca, angels don't fly" this film does not match it in any department. However, compared to Yassmine Kassari's "Sleeping child", Ms Benliyazid's film is more mature and even in quality (both films are made by women on women in Morocco) though the former won more awards at film festivals. While the subject of Ms Benliyazid's film may not be politically correct in some parts of the world to win awards, its underlying message is relevant for Morocco and the rest of the world!
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