Magazine article Screen International

'Razzia': Toronto Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Razzia': Toronto Review

Article excerpt

A complicated, time-travelling narrative from Nabil Ayouch which runs bestween the Atlas mountains and Casablanca

Dir: Nabil Ayouch. France/Morocco/Belgium. 2017. 119 mins

A complex and involving compound portrait of the upheaval caused by creeping theocracy and ingrained attitudes, Razzia skillfully adresses hypocrisy, ignorance, misguided religious fervour, sexual opression and the persistent tug toward greater personal freedom as experienced by a riveting cross-section of Moroccans in 1982 and in 2015. Brimming with visual and emotional rewards, Nabil Ayouch’s powerful follow-up to Much Loved is a must for viewers interested in brave filmmaking intent on examining the underpinnings of current events.

Thwarted desires are a staple of tragic drama that Razzia taps into with a sure and modern hand

The Berber proverb “Happy is he who can act according to his desires” graces the screen before we’re introduced to a touching galllery of individuals whose desires are thwarted most of the time. In the starkly arid Atlas Mountains in 1982, idealistic schoolteacher Abdallah (Amine Ennaji) is a passenger on a bus headed away from the village where he loved teaching science and poetry to boys and girls alike in their native Berber dialect. He is also leaving his romance with an independent-minded widow, Yto (Saadia Ladib), whose son Ilyas is a good pupil but stutters.

The seeds of his depature for Casablanca were planted the day an inspector from the city declared that henceforth all classes must be conducted in Arabic “the language of the Holy Koran.” The teacher is driven to tears as theocratic rote learning gradually supplants authentic knowledge and discovery. Abdallah asks himself whether to stay and fight or admit he’s licked. Throughout the film, the camera returns to shots of the bus on a winding road as he ponders the right tactic to take.

In the streets of Casablanca in 2015 crowds march chanting that Morocco is a Muslim country where men and women are not equal. Literally moving against the tide, confidently sensual Salima (co-screenwriter Maryam Touzani) in short dress and long uncovered hair makes her way to the home of now-elderly Yto (played by Nezha Tebbai). Women gather there to blow off steam by dancing joyously among themsleves. Yto takes one look at Salima and deduces she’s pregnant.

Salima, we learn, lives in bourgeois comfort with a domineering man. …

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