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After 20 years spent in jail, a political prisoner is released in the midst of the Arab Spring. A TV crew doing a report on the social movements in Morocco decides to follow him in the quest of hist past...
Hassan Ben Badida,
Yahya El Fouandi,
A difficult film to review objectively because of the content. It was extremely well done whatever your reaction might be to the story that was told. For those open to the excellent message contained in this film, it would be well worthwhile to watch. To those who see the world solely in black & white, it may, unfortunately, further fuel their prejudices
The story begins with a group of boys born and raised in the squalor of a Moroccan slum. Their lives are shaped by poverty, exploitation within their own community, harassment by the police and indifference to their plight from the government. They develop into young men who have little hope for the future, who use & deal drugs, who get drunk and into fights, who commit crimes & have no hope of meaningful employment, who are harassed & exploited by the police, and who in some cases are put in prison.
At this point in the story some of the young men are rescued ( or further exploited, depending on your point of view) by a group of Muslim men. The young men become part of a community that support & care for one another, pray & receive religious instruction, stop their anti-social behavior, cease committing petty crimes and seem on the road to being model citizens.
But then their education goes beyond the fundamentals of Islam and they learn of the persecution of others of their faith around the world. They are trained in hand to hand combat and indoctrinated with the view that martyrdom for the faith and for the defense of their people is an honorable objective that will ensure their entry into paradise and provide comfort to their families in this life.
To western minds this would appear to be mindless extremism and sacrifice but to be fair virtually every nation and every ideology fights its battles with armies recruited from poor, under-educated young men who have few prospects for the good life experienced by those who want to use them to defend their comfortable status quo or who want them to sacrifice themselves for some cause from which they, the recruiters, would reap the rewards. Whether the exploiters glorify the prospect of an honorable death for king & country, for democracy, for democratic freedom or for religious survival, it amounts to the same thing attracting the disenfranchised through propaganda and short-term rewards to fight and die while those who reap the potential benefits stay out of harm's way.
The message of the film may help some to better understand the circumstances that inspire the recruitment of Islamic fundamentalists who are willing to become martyrs for their faith, but more generally it should open some eyes to the exploitation of marginalized, disaffected people for some "grand cause," whether it is supposedly to preserve a western capitalistic way of life (though certainly not a life enjoyed by most of those recruited) or to restore lost glory (as was twice the case in Germany) or supposedly at the behest of the semi-divine emperor of Japan or to defend the faith as in the crusades or Israeli conflicts and so on throughout history. Glorifying sacrifice from those who have little to lose, by those who have much to gain, is neither unique to Islamic fundamentalists nor to the 21st century. The conditions that produce the ready supply of recruits used to wage wars and terrorism are nothing new either.
Definitely a thought-provoking, well produced film.
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