Casablanca Beats Review – Morocco’s Vibrant Hip-Hop School | Musical comedies

Jhe Arabic title of French-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch’s hip-hop fable loosely translates to “raise your voice”, while in France, where the film competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, it is known as the name of High and loud ­– ” high and loud “. The two monikers perfectly capture the vibrant spirit of this moving street musical, described by its creator as born out of “the urge to make a film to give young people a voice”. On one level, it’s a patchwork of popular cinematic tropes, combining the themes of strength through the music of films as diverse as 8 miles and school of rock with inspiring class formats of everything from blackboard jungle for Dead Poets Society. But there is also a strong whiff of Ken Loach’s discursive politics Land and Libertyembroiled in the accessible rebellion of Jafar Panahi Off-side or that of Deniz Gamze Ergüven Mustang – a heady beverage indeed.

Real-life rapper-turned-teacher Anas Basbousi is keeping things close to home as a new teacher at an arts center in Casablanca’s Sidi Moumen neighborhood, an area still stained with the specter of fomenting terrorism. On the first day, Anas boldly paints the wall of his classroom, only to be told that it’s not his classroom – this is a classroom, one that is used by others who don’t necessarily appreciate its rebellious free-form vibe. Tensions rise when Anas meets his class, played by on-screen debutants scouted at the Stars of Sidi Moumen (a cultural center co-founded by Ayouch), whose real lives inspired their fictional on-screen alter egos. As each student speaks up to show the new teacher what they can do, he dismisses their efforts with disdain, accusing them of not using their authentic voice and tearing down a misfit to brag about a life that bears little resemblance to his. .

It is clear from the outset where this is going, and no one should doubt that Anas’s harsh words are merely an educational provocation, a wake-up call for young people in whom he senses true potential. Sure enough, they soon begin to escalate, and neither do the young women whose rhymes tell hidden stories, leading to an outpouring of feminist strength that infuriates a zealous classmate nicknamed “the Imam.” Meanwhile, extracurricular lives begin to encroach on the classroom, with outraged parents forbidding their offspring from attending, leading to moral battles between Anas and his more stuffy superiors. There is even a West Side Storyconfrontation of style with oppressive authority.

Shot over 15 months, which allowed the project to grow organically, Ayouch’s film retains a gritty authenticity despite often clichéd dramatic tropes. Like at Clio Barnard Ali and Ava, this down-to-earth tale isn’t afraid to embrace the magical elements of the musical. Yes, the real camera work of Virginie Surdej and Amine Messadi gives “the illusion of a documentary” (there are nuances of Nicolas Philibert To be and to Have), convincing us that what we see on screen is “real”. But Khalid Benghrib’s muscular choreography elevates the action above the everyday, creating fusions of poetry and dance that sometimes remind me of Philippe Lacôte’s hallucinogenic Ivorian prison drama. twelfth night — a very different film, perhaps, but one that similarly blended elements of documentary and fantasy to thrilling effect.

With original music by Mike and Fabien Kourtzer and performance scenes that take the cast from the classroom to the recording studio, on stage and beyond, Casablanca Beats (which, like Ayouch’s previous films MektoubAli Zaoua: Prince of the streets, horses of god and Raid, was Morocco’s entry for the Oscars) has an infectious energy that draws us into the ever-changing worlds of its characters. Above all, it does so in a way that is both engaging and accessible, giving a platform to young voices who Ayouch passionately says are a force for good in increasingly troubled times, offering “a sign that the world is changing”. On this evidence, it is difficult to disagree.

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