Casablanca Beats – Film Review
by Frank L
Director – Nabil Ayouch
Writers – Nabil Ayouch (screenplay), Maryam Touzani (collaboration)
Stars – Anas Basbousi, Ismail Adouab, Zineb Boujemaa
Sidi Moumen is a sprawling shantytown which forms part of Casablanca. In this film, it is described as like the Bronx in New York which is a surprising comparison. In its jumble of shacks, traders, and every type of transport, rapper Anas (Anas Basbousi) is forced to ask for directions in order to locate the local arts centre where he is going to supervise a programme called the “Positive School of Hip Hop”. An early problem is that the administrator of the centre is not into innovation. Another problem is that he is not impressed by the first offerings of the pupils. Rapper Anas is no cuddly teacher!
The incipient young rappers are all non-professional actors who play in documentary fashion, characters who are representations of themselves. Each comes from a different background but they are all living in an Islamic country and the self-expression of rapping represents all sorts of challenges to the omnipresent certainties of the Islamic faith to which they adhere in various degrees. Ayouch is a long term resident of Casablanca and is familiar with Sidi Moumen. He is a supporter of the work undertaken by art centres like the one he depicts. He shot the film over two years so there is no obvious linear storyline, instead, there is a series of happenings as to how the incipient world of youthful rapping grapples with the societal norms around it. There is no denouement.
The film explores the increasingly confident exposition of rap as it emerges from the youthful participants under the guidance of Anas. He himself remains aloof from his pupils and does not appear to have any particular standing in Sidi Moumen; he is not part of any family or group of individuals. He is a complex loner.
The music gives the film its beat and the young rappers give it its style. Their confidence in rapping in the confines of a conservative society in which they live radiates hope that they will find a way to mediate between the traditions of that society and the hip hop music which they love.
Ayouch has created a film which shows some of the complexities that cultural innovation creates in a sophisticated, complex and religious society. It is a joyous and challenging film which is worth your time.