Contents Dedication Introduction chapter one: Marock between objectors and celebrators


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Abdelmjid KETTIOUI Identity in Marock: The Moroccan but not quite.


Introduction ……………………………………..…………………………………………3
Chapter one: Marock between objectors and celebrators
1- Deplorers of Marock and Marrakshi’s ‘treason of the blood’………………….………...5

2- Celebrators of Marock: Freedom of expression and the ‘realist and creative’ Marrakshi……………………………………..………………………………………….… 8

Chapter two: Undone realism and the rhetoric of empire
1- Marrakshi in a few words……………………………….……………….……………...12

2- Realism in Marock: The unrealized realism and the the humble servant

of empire ………………………………………….……………………………………...12

3- Marock: The exotic fruit of rank Orientalism……………………….………………… 14

Chapter three: Orientalising Islam and the locked doors to freedom
1- Derision of religion and Orientalizing the Orient ……………………………………....17

2- Tyrant laity: The freedom from religion at the expense of the freedom

of religion ………………..……………………………………………………………..19

3- The Jewish dream, Zionation and the closed corridors to freedom ………………….....19



To dearest mother

Her greatness of heart and beauty of mind

To dearest father

His loveliness of nature and trueness of faith

A token of Love

Identity in Marock: The Moroccan But Not Quite.

Written by: Abdelmjid Kettioui, post-graduate student in Fez

Supervised by Prof. Touria Khannous

Academic year: 2005-2006


My reading of the film is an endeavour to put to task the question of identity in Marock. To engage with it critically and aesthetically, to read it as a text and to decipher its discursive under-pinnings lie at the heart of my approach to the film. My argument is that while the film seeks realism the ideology within which it operates is nothing but the fruit and working of Orientalism. Truth is it is hard to draw a wedge between realism and Orientalism in Marock, the two being tightly intertwined and the line separating representation and misrepresentation rather thin. The film, above all, is a battle-ground between tradition and modernity in its Western version, between Islam and Judaism, between the Crescent and the Cross of David, between godliness and worldliness, between the filth of wealth and the direness of misery, between the sons of the bourgeois elite and the sons of the trodden-upon. Between the tide and ebb, the film of Marrakshi grows into shape as Moroccan but not quite,1 as un-Moroccan and as anti-Moroccan. The film’s affected realism and outspoken Orientalism backfire its claim to Morocanness. My paper comprises three chapters. The first chapter is devoted to the polemically partisan, journalistic and artistic tornado the film has blown up between a conservative Right and a liberal Left. The media and artistic renditions of the film in their convergence and divergence shall form the bulk of this part, as well. The second chapter is an exploration of the film’s alleged realism and how such allegation boomerangs once read against the film’s rhetoric of empire 2 and Orientalism. My point of departure, here, is that every represention serves ‘particular series of ends’3 and none is ‘value free’.4 I shall also argue that the archive Marock is inspired by is the colonial, Orientalist, filmic work France has done on Morocco since 1919 onwards.5 No wonder the film is France’s homager as much as Morocco’s damager, more of a remembering than a dismembering of France’s all-encampassing and far-reaching penetration of a nation, Morocco. The third chapter is an investigation of the film’s Orientalism and over-laity that draws of Islam the picture it is not. As it proposes what shall become of Islam in the age of tyrant laity, Marock does Islam violence. The comedy of it all is that Marrakshi is blind to the fact that Islam is as wordly as godly; that it is a faith to believe in and a life-style to conform to; that one of the precepts of laity is not to drive religion to a nonentity. Together with Marrakshi’s subordinating of Islam to Judaism and blending of Judaism with Zionism, I shall untie Marrakshi’s extraneous call to ensure Ghita’s exit to ‘freedom’. The part Youri, the Moroccan Jew who is part and parcel of the Moroccan societal fabric, is given to play as Ghita’s freer drives him to an early grave due to religious borders. As a result, the bringer of freedom should have been summoned from within and not from without.

Chapter one: Marock between objectors and celebrators
The critical reception Marock has incurred is of a wide-ranging partisan, journalistic and artistic polemic. Objectors to the film call for censoring Marock in as much as it marks an onslaught on Islam and a stab to Moroccan identity. Backers of the film, on the other hand, have it that not to exhibit the film is to leave unseen a well-wrought piece of creation that is genuinely Moroccan.

1- Deplorers of Marock and Marrakshi’s ‘treason of the blood’.

The PJD6 declares that, in its response to Marock, the party departs not from a Fatwa issued by a commission of Oulemas or the so-called fundamentalist or Islamist groups but from film-makers’, critics’ and artists’ renditions of the film7. The PJD denounces Marock in as much as the film renounces its Moroccanness. It has it that the progenitor of Marock is but a puppet prompted by a wily, venomed, anti-Arabo-Moslem hands.8 Marrakshi, following the PJD, stamps herself as a propagator of a base machination whose sole and final end is to depreciate Islam under the embellished guise of art and freedom of expression. The party sees to it that Marock glorifies things Zionist and Franco-phone while it denigrates things Moslem, Moroccan and Arabo-phone. The PJD makes the question that were the roles reversed, that is, were the Jewish characer rather than the Moslem actants in the film projected in a derogatory manner, wouldn’t the CCM9 regard the film anti-Semitic, as if the majority of Moslems aren’t Semites? Would the film be that much backed from outside Morocco?10

In the face of some political parties making a cause of Marock and the CCM and government’s persistence to show the film, the PJD demands that the government assume its full responsibility in releasing the film and that the film be exhibited before the commission of the Oulemas to determine whether or not the film is to be censored.11

In the same vein, Attajdid, a journal viewed as close to the PJD if not its mouth-piece,12 castigates Marock for the general mock it blasphemously makes and propagates of Islam. To begin with, the film is critiqued for being much of a documentary than a veritable film with regard to its remarkable mediocrity in terms filmic as well as aesthetic.13 The profane treatment of two highly sanctified rituals in Islam, namely prayer and fast, lies at the heart of the journal’s castigation of the film. Bilal Talidi, an editorialist and member of the PJD, deplores Marock’s alleged claim of being a harbinger of religious toleration in the presentment of a love affair between a Musilm and a Jew.14

Far from being what it claims, Talidi argues, Marock shows the heroine almost naked shouting in stupefied bewilderment at her brother’s rapture in prayer: ‘What are you doing? Have you fallen on your head?’15 Talidi makes a couple of questions in this regard. How is Ghita’s pronouncement needful to the senario? Why choosing the month of Ramadan to talk of tolerance since the events of the film unravel in a manner contrary to the spirit of the saintly month? This is evidenced, goes on Talidi, in the relief Ghita’s father expresses at the termination of Ramadan: ‘If I have to fast one more day, I will end up by killing someone’.16 Wouldn’t the film risk his maker prison were the Jewish and Moslem characters in the film portrayed conversly as did an academic study a researcher in Europe, the cradle of democracy, having miscounted the number of the victims of the Holocaust? Why should the Moroccans be delineated as excessively voluptuous while Youri, the Jew, figures as respectful of his values?17 Mao, Ghita’s brother, following Talidi,

stands for Mohamed. Mohamed in the film is a murderer. Ghita admits that the Islam her brother and father epitomise is all the more hypocritical, them having purchased the silence of the victim’s family. Mohamed is far from representing tolerence. He is the instigator of the conflict between his father and his sister as he apprises his father of Ghita’s relation with the Jew. He is the last to reconciliate with his sister.18

As concerns the question of tolerance between the two religions, Bilal concludes that, the reconcilation Marrakshi propounds is by no means equitable, Islam being exclusively discriminated against.19

One of the many artistic voices that rally with the afore-mentioned stand-point vis-à-vis the film is that of Mohamed Asli, the maker of In Casablanca Angels Do Not Hover Over. Asli argues that ‘Marock is not a Moroccan film’ and hence must needs not be given room in a national film festival, insinuating that the Moroccan state will be complicitous with a ‘Zionist lobby’ should the film be exhibited.20 Another deplorer of the film is the Morocan film critic, Mohamed Dahan. Dahan is not for censoring Marock or any film regardless of its aesthetic and intellectucal worth. Dhan maintains that Marock does in no way serve Moroccan national cinema. It is rather an extention of colonial cinema, a cinema that disinvests Moroccans of their past and culture, minimizes them to some fantastical creatures to lend an exotically romanticized and aestheticised touch to films dubbed but far from being Moroccan, throughout the colonial epoch.21 Marock is an allusion to the standard of rebellion the progeny of the upper class raise in the face of a morality that does not gratify their sybaritically and hedonistically searched for pleasure. It is a rebellion, to put it in the words of Dahan, whose extent stops at the gate of the night-club and whose time ends on the prize-giving day in the ‘Lycee Lyautee’.22 In fine, Dahan concludes his reading of the film by cautioning against the cultrual and identitarian threat certain co-productions pose. For Dahan, Marock, likewise, forces certain patterns of conduct and a mono-lingual dialogue at the expense of the vernacular languages and dialects and enforces an anti-communal outlook, employing space as a decor for touristic consumption.23

Marock is not exempt from the public’s denunciation even. As TelQuel chronicles,

even before the film is officially shown in the Moroccan film festival in Tangiers, rumours go in the halls of the hotels of Detroit that ‘it is of necessity that we solidarize to denounce the film; Laila Marrakshi knows nothing of Moroccan realities’. Some recall, always behind the scenes, that the film-maker is wife to a Jew called Alexandre Aready and that her film is ‘the standard-bearer of a Zionist lobby’.24

Photo: 1

Poster of Marock.

2- Celebrators of Marock: Freedom of expression and the ‘realist and creative’ Marrakshi.

On the other side of the coin, there seems to be a general consensus among the parties of the Left as to their espousal of Marock and militancy in the face of the ‘anti-Marock’ campaign and the torrent of strictures the PJD unleashes on the film.25 The Leftists concur that gone are the days of censorship, that the space of creation and creativity is sacred and that the PJD’s manifesto vis-à-vis the film is but ungrounded folly.26 Nabil Benabdellah, a member of the PPS27 and official spokesman of the government, states that to ‘render certain thematics holy is utterly totalitarian’.28 He further elaborates that the film has not been subject to debate among the PPS since the polemic around this film should not have taken place in the first place. Benabdellah stresses that ‘Marock is a Moroccan film like the other films’29. Mohamed Amaskane, a member of the UMP,30 declares that Marock has bred no argumentation among the UMP. He is for all that promotes the rights of the individual and hence against the PJD’s view of the film. According to him, Marock can be boycotted but never censored for the film is inscribed in a new globe, that of the internet and globalization.31 Driss Lachgar, an MP and member of the USFP,32 esteems it imperative that the film be exhibited in as many cinemas as could be and in ‘all Moroccan cities like the other Moroccan films’. He demands, too, that the parties of the Left rally against this campaign levelled at dwarfing the scope of freedoms in Morocco.33

Nabila Mounib, a member of the PSU,34 considers that ‘we are in front of a false debate’. She explicates that the PJD has made a polemic out of a debut made by a debutante only to use it politically to advance through it its views on a lot more crucial and urgent problematics preoccuping the public.35 She puts it bluntly that in Morocco ‘we live a shock of civilizations, between those who strive for modern Morocco that is respectful of universal values and those who struggle to pull the country ages behind’.36 Abdellah Bekkali, the general secretary of the Chabiba Istiqlalya, likewise, sees that the artist is responsible for his work that must mirror the values of the Moroccan society. Bekkali has it that no one save the spectator can judge this cinematic work and that the pillars of the nation can be put to dispute.37

One of the ardent defenders and celebrators of Marock
is TelQuel. The magazine opens its review on the film with an overwhelmingly eulogistic and truimphal flourish. ‘If Marock, writes Karim Boukhari, the writer of the report on the film, draws such passion, it is because we stick the nose at the indisputable realities. And it is for that that we love it’.38 Marock, according to him, is a slice of life that is in every which way true to life. Boukhari speaks of the film not stoutly but too lavishly. He applauds its audacity and shattering of taboos. One of the taboos materialises in the liaision between a Moslem and a Jew. He sees to it that the Muslim and the Jew plead ‘morality’ to grant them the chance to love each other, to prove that they can put aside David’s star and all that it stands for and to cross the boundaries demarcating the two faiths.39 For Boukhari, what is inaugurated in Marock is a ‘love’ that ‘transcends faith’.40 Another taboo is the questioning of the credibility of prayer betrayed in Ghita’s attitude towards this spiritual practice, the which Boukhari concieves of as more of a misunderstanding between the sister and the brother than a rejection of prayer on the sister’s part. He comments that it is reductive to read this scene of ‘mutual misconception’ as an ill-treatment of prayer.41 Another taboo Boukhari takes issue with is eating Ramadan. He argues that

Ghita does not fast and does not ‘hide’ the fact. Yet, be it in the film or in reality, she is not the only one to do thus. What is to be done then? Will it do to put Ghita and her ‘fellowship’ back on the right path, that is, oblige them to fast Ramadan? Will it do to ‘hide’ them from the public and continue to claim that they fast like everybody else, instead? Neither will do for the most important path to be trodden lies elsewhere: Ghita and her fellowship are Moroccans like the other Moroccans, normal people who adapt the collective constraints of their society to their needs of individual growing into shape. They hide no more.42
Following Boukhari, the documentary facet of the film gets enriched and realism is achieved through the profanities upper class youths exchange and the fantasies they indulge in among other things, none of which being freely spotlighted by the filmmaker.43

Le Journal, with no less ardour, treasures the film and relishes its ground-breaking success. ‘In cinemas, ‘Marock’ … beats all the records. The film affects its second week of success and the craze is still there’.44 The film, according to the weekly, promotes a laity respectful to Islam, a laity that departs from a ‘liberal vision’ towards a ‘societal liberalization’. For Le
Journal, Marock is to be praised for grappling with a social class scantly depicted in Moroccan cinema.45 On the other hand, in response to Attajdid’s ‘claims’, the magazine argues that Marock is ‘far from representing this project which certain ‘modernist forces’ try to impose on Morocco via connections here and there’.46 All in all, Le Journal regards Marock as the ‘true debate’.

In a face-to-face confrontation with Bilal Talidi, Abdellah Zaazaa, the president of the associative network RESAQ, comes together with the other supporters of Marock to endorse the film.47 For Zaazaa, Marock is Morocco in miniature. The offspring of the elite, too, face problems tantamount to those of the popular districts, ‘problems of sexual frustration, virginity, and the status of Jewish Moroccans in this country’.48 Zaazaa deems it ‘gross’ that Marock should be ‘subject to a campaign of denigration’. He laments the PJD-led campaign as being a ‘declaration of war against us all: against the citizen in search of freedom of creation, against the freedom of expression…’.49 On being asked if a Jew who crosses David's star around the neck of a Moslem before making love is a provocation of Moslems, Zaazaa responds that this star has Moroccaness in it:

It is part of the history of this country. On the other hand, the film-maker is not obliged to make another conception of things. It is the history of an individual, not that of a whole society.50

By and large, the polemic brought upon Marock is no more than an argumentation whereby ‘every clan spreads in broad daylight its ideals’51. Marock is metamorphosed into a site of struggle between those who ‘laud’ the freedom of expression and those who ‘defend’ morality and ethics. The out-come is a crushing success with unprecedented revenues. As Marrakshi intelligently hits home, the polemic serves as free ‘publicity’52 to her film.

Chapter two: Undone realism and the rhetoric of empire
1- Marrakshi in a few words.

Before digging any deeper, let us have a glimpse into the biography and filmography of the maker of Marock. Born in Casablanca in 1975, Laila Marrakchi grew up and studied in France.53 Hence the immence impact of the French culture on her. She obtained the D.E.A cinematographic and audiovisual studies degree from the university of Paris VIII. She assisted in directing numberous films such as Soleil de Roger Hanin, Furia de Alexandre Aja and Over the Rainbow. Her first short casting L’Horizon Perdue came into being in 2000. In 2001, she made two documentaries: Femmes en Royaume Chérifian and Derrière les Portes du Hammam. In 2002, she directed Deux Cents Dirhams and in 2003 Mombo.54 In fine, the Moroccan-born and the French-bred Marrakshi with her debut as a feature film is in her beginnings. She has a lot more to take and much more to give.

2- Realism in Marock: The unrealized realism and the humble servant of empire.

The very act of making Marock is inscribed within the politics of representation, given that every text is tied to and enmeshed in the weaver’s ideological and rhetorical web. Every act of representation, following Said, relies on ‘who the interpreter is, who he or she is addressing and what his or her purpose is in interpreting’.55 Moroccan-born and French-bred, the architect of Marock defines herself as ‘Moroccan’56. With regard to the immence influence of the language and culture of Voltaire betrayed in her film, she is Moroccan but not quite. What testifies to this is her making of Europe the ‘culture of reference’ in forseeing the success of her film in her native land. ‘The film was exhibited in Europe and achieved a crushing success. I am sure there will be the same for Morocco’.57 In assuming that what goes for France goes for Morocco, Marrakshi implies that Moroccans will see the film through French eyes; that Morocco is still under French tutelage; that it has not yet come of age. What Marrakshi does not fortell is that the eyes through which Moroccans will view the film are those of the third world to which they pertain. In rendering the relationship between the once colonized and the once colonizer filial and parental, a recurrent Orientalist trope gets reverberated by Marrakshi. That is, the colonized to the colonizer becomes like the child to the father: utter and blind dependency. The film’s rhetoric is imperial and its dehumanization of humans humane. In so doing, Marrakshi divulges that she is utterly bound in the chains of an imperial past; wrought upon by a culture not at all her own.

It comes then as no surprise that her film is directed towards Western audiences in the first place, the film being sponsored by and first shown in France. Marock is disgranted sponsorship by the commission of funds and aid to Moroccan cinema on the basis that ‘its documentary facet accumulated too much clichés at once’, 58 recommending that ‘the project deserves to be re-wrought’. Her project thus rejected, Marrakshi ‘turns herself towards the hexagon to sit the financial mounting of her film, of which the budget finally is stopped to 1, 8 million Euros’.59 Thus financed, Marock must be partially if not wholly France’s homager in return for her charity. The film has to cater for ‘rather predictable Western ‘Orientalist’ tastes for the exotic’, 60 as is the case of films funded from abroad. As Marock owes indebted-ness to France, the film bewails its imagined realism; cries its feigned Moroccaness. Were it nationally or individually produced, Marock would be regarded as a lot more genuine parcel of Morocan reality, the French influence being done without. Marrakshi’s accounting for the choice of the title runs counter to the film’s bearings. Marrakshi explains that she has chosen the title Marock ‘to acoount for the paradoxes of a youth torn between the traditions of old Morocco and certain aspirations more rock’n’roll’61. Following the film-maker, Marock is a visual pun that is a mingling of things traditional and things modern. As a matter of fact, it is all about going Western, French and anti-Moroccan.

It is futile that Marrakshi should insist on calling her film a personal memoir.62 For the sake of precision, I would venture that Marock is factional, a weaving together of the factual and the ficticious. Once Marrakshi’s memories are made fictive, the lost realism she is chasing becomes a mirage. A case in point is the love affair she proposes between a Moslem and a Jew, well knowing that such a union is blocked out in the actual world. Overcome by reality, Marrakshi cannot but put a tragic ending to Youri’s life, suggesting the impossibility of misogenation not only in the real world but in fiction, as well. Similarly, Marock is Marrakshi’s no more. It becomes every spectator’s film, whereby he or she engages in an act of reading, constructing and deconstructing of varying degrees. Marrakshi is disowned of what, she believes, she naturally owns. As every viewer brings about his own interpretation upon the film, the film-maker shrinks with evry interpretation; becomes something; becomes nothing; dies, to quote Roland Barthes, an author’s death.63 Putting much of herself in Marock does not necessarily purport that hers is the honest-to-God truth. The realism the film-maker is at pains to evidence is discursive as any representation is. And that does in no way exempt her from critique. As it becomes every beholder’s film, Marock loses its autobiographical aspect; its realism.

Truth is Marrakshi counts on these autobiographical recollections of her teens as she toils up to call for a freedom, unluckily for Marrakshi, constrained by age. As the film ranks among youth culture, the demographics targeted being basically the youth, Marock cannot be taken as a societal project to reckon with. It is a whim of adolescence whereby adolescents build their own castles in the air and realize their dreams without censure, their imagination being the stage on which they conjure up forbidden games. Only Marrakshi reminds us that a handful of previledged youths can live out and to the brim their wantonness in broad daylight. Adolescence is the age of rebellion, a process of self-assertion as the teenager is in constant negotiation with and discovery of his or her body. Its maker green in judgemenet, Marrarkshi’s film cannot be ripe and, thus, cannot pass for a mature act. What Marrakshi is oblivious to is that adolescence is not the phase through which she can advance a ‘liberalizing’ societal project. As Ghita, the heroine and Marrakshi’s mouth-piece, leaves her country in stark rebutal of its moral values, her understanding of freedom remains skin-deep, hollow. Such hollowness is laced with unaccounted for sexism on the film-maker’s part. In a relatively male-dominated society, Ghita figures as the lead in Marock. And just as she opens the film with a little act of rebellion, flirting in a car by a night-club, she closes the film with a graver revolt, leaving her motherland for a foreign land. Is this the realism out of which Marrakshi is making a cause? Is this the realism Morocco wants in the process of liberation and decolonization?
3- Marock: The exotic fruit of rank Orientalism.

Marock is to a lesser extent realist in its depiction of upper class burgeois girls and boys turning their back on a culture that goes against their lust for pleasure, melting and being utterly liquefied in the French mode of life. This realism is informed by and goes in line with the long tradition of clishéd presentment of Morocco in French colonial cinema. Such filmic Orientalist conglomeration dates from 1919 with Mektoub and terminates in 1956 with Zarak.64 In Marock, too, the actors and the setting are all Moroccan yet this less lends Moroccanness to the movie than dihistoricize and misrepresent Morocco. Morocco is represented as lacking in a history and a culture of its own. Ghita and her friends are bacalaureat students in the Lycee Lyautee, the sheer name of which tells of the kind of education those young people get. It is in such schools that they are brainwashed, domesticated and frenchized. Their bondage is obsequious and their assimilation total. In a way or other, they figure, to put it à la Bhabha, as Moroccan in blood and colour, but French in tastes, in opinions, in morals and intellect.65 They are French thinking Moroccans. Not unlike main-stream colonial cinema grappling with Morocco, in Marock it is French rather than Arabic that dominates the movie. Arabic is silenced as it is made more the language of the ‘sub-humans’ than of the elitist class the film prominently features.

Photo: 2.

Ghita and her friends exercising their freedom on a day of Ramadan!

By the same token, when French film-makers took to shooting in Morocco, their most concern was to weave fantastic, strange, barbaric and ambiguous stories, stories of the exotic that confirm the impression the Western viewer has got of an aggressive and backward Orient, being but a figment of imperial imagining.66 To put in Said’s words,
[T]he Orient was almost a European invention, and has been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experience.67

Morocco was meant to be the exotic stage and filmic terrain on which the Moroccan lesser other was the spectacle and the Westerner the spectator. Marock is an act from this colonial play that sports with its minor players and mutes its subalterns. It is a chapter from The Arabian Nights where Ghita, attended as if Shehrazade by her lady-in-waiting, takes a bath before heading to the night-club to meet her Shahrayare, this time her country-man but a Jew, which makes of Morocco a land of story. By the same gesture, the mystic aroma muezzins’ crescendos bestows the film exoticises the Islamic Orient and reduces it to a superstitious, metaphysical and irrational being. Moa’s ‘crime’ which is the outcome of an accident marks him in the eyes of his sister as a brutal murderer, thus attesting to the Orient’s alleged cruelty. Another Orientalist doxa reiterated about the Orient is the latter’s lusciviousness.68 That remarkably appears in the way Youri’s friend, a Moslem, couches a prostitute and contradicts with the restraint Youri displays as he declines to lie with the other prostitute that friend has brought to his villa.

Chapter three: Orientalising Islam and the locked doors to freedom

1- Derision of religion and orientalizing the Orient.

Ghita’s derision of religion shows in the way she fetishizes and redicules prayer. She is galvanized at the sight of her brother rapt in prayer. She hurls an invective of ire at Mao who goes on with his prayer. ‘What has happened to you? Have you fallen on your head…. Father! Mother!Your son is going nuts’, shouts Ghita. While firing a diatribe at her brother, she was gazing at him dressed in clothes more naked in than without. In moving and eventually standing before her kneeling brother, Ghita is not only meant to annul his prayer literally and symbolically but to position herself in mastery of the whole scene; to be on top of him, as well. The brother is prostrated, reduced to silence, and weakened by the very act meant to empower him, an act of prayer. As he is praying he cannot speak truth to his sister’s hallucinations, return the bare-faced and hegemonizing look to its caster, his sister. Ghita stops vexing her brother only to remind him that ‘Mecca is on other side’, as if set on unmaking his spiritual ritual.

Photo: 3.

The ‘enlightened’ Ghita and the ‘benighted’ Mao?!

The whole scene is reminiscent of the Orientalist, propagandistic and tendentious presentment of the hotly called for form of worship in Islam, prayer, in Van Gogh’s Submission.69 As Ghita mars the solemnity and sacredness of prayer with her see-through clothing, so does Aisha’s sensually revealed body. Ghita’s disrespect for prayer is as sacrilegious as Aicha’s parodic invocation of God: ‘Oh Allah! How can I have faith in you? in you, submission to you…….. is self-betrayal’70 and Amina’s derisive and untrue

imploration of Allah: ‘And now that I pray for salvation, under my veil, you remain silent as the grave I long for. I wonder how much longer I am able to submit’.71 Ghita, too, endeavours to liberate herself in every which way. Islam literally means ‘submission’ to Allah. This submission is mocked through a seeming yet sardonic supplication of Allah. The four women in Submission give out that they can submit no more, insinuating that Islam is outmodish, that its time is run. It is on like grounds that Ghita cannot make out why her brother so clings to Islam. She is all the more appalled at his semblance. ‘Remove this beard and all these tricks of the pre-history’,72 shouts Ghita at her brother. ‘Do you think yourself in Algeria or what?’73 This stereotypically-suffused interpretation of Islam on the film-maker’s part reduces the whole faith to a beard and equates it with extremism, not realizing, since the film deals with Judaism as well, that Jewish extremism, among other religious extremisms, has forced out a state in Palestine.

The engineer of Submision is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Muslim, who gives up her submission to Allah believing a few Islamic practices to be ‘medieval’ and ‘incompatible with democracy’.74 Both Marrakshi and Ali must needs find out new heaven, new earth; new God. They take it on themselves to refashion Africa in Europe’s image. No wonder they renounce their baptism and go Western in Western lands.

For Ghita, prayer is an obselete mode of life. Just before she enters the night-club once, between a Ferrari and a BMW is praying an old bearded man in charge of the parking lot but the loud sound of music coming out of the club swallows him altogether. Following Marrakshi, the aged man is the aged Islam that has to be renewed by sturdier energies. In this age of modernity, Islam is crippled; approaches its end. A modern Quran must needs be written. A more liberal Islam shall take over, proposes the film.

The protagonist of the film, Ghita, goes so uninhibeted that she eats in Ramadan publicly, is set on going out with Youri before Ramadan is over and hence rejects another pillar of Islam, that is, fast.

Moui Fatma (the house keeper): Do you feel no shame eating in front of everybody in Ramadan?

Ghita (with a full mouth): I am in my bloody period.

Moui Fatma: ‘Bloody period’! Does your period last the whole thirty days of Ramadan?!75

2- Tyrant laity: The freedom from religion at the expense of the freedom of religion.
Such complete rejection of things religious can also be read against the all-encompassing and totalitarian laicity the film so sermonizes. That Morocco is a purely secular is not a clear-cut matter, the king being the head of state and the commander of believers.76 This double-faced state of affairs entails a Morocco divorced from its Islam whereby prevails a freedom of religion and a freedom from religion. In Marock, as the godly brother is bullied by the wordly sister, secularism tyrannizes and cries victory over religion. To put it more succinctly, when prayer and fast hamper in no way with things laic, why should they get hamperd with through laic means? In questioning her brother as he kneels praying, ‘are you going nuts?’77, she reminds him that if he lives by ‘insanity’, she abides by ‘reason’, reason being of one of the founding tenets of the laity she devoutly professes. In so doing, she wrenches from him the right to ‘believe’ while she grants for herself the right to ‘disbelieve’.

Ghita’s rejection of her culture is so absolute that it does not allow for any acceptance of that culture. In the same vein, the real Moroccans in the film, those un-Frenchized Moroccans, are represented as a ‘lesser’ people because they cling to a ‘lesser’ way of life, speak a ‘lesser’ language and submit to a ‘lesser’ God. So, Ghita, hardly coming to terms with her people, and to quench her lust for the forbidden, she must do it. She must leave Morocco.

3- The Jewish dream, Zionation and the closed corridors to freedom.

Marock is also a romance between Ghita the Moslem and Youri the Jew. I actually see nothing wrong with the union of the Moslem and the Jew or the Moslem with the Jewess for the rejection of miscegenation on a religious background can be mere racism and ungrounded purity. In this respect, I have it, as Said argues, that identity is a dangerous thing when it is conceived in terms parochial.78 What bothers the Moroccan spectator though is that what Ghita terms ‘love’ transcends ‘faith’. She makes it clear that she can renounce her baptism and turn Jewish if that would please her lover. In fact, she trivializes religion and has it that he can go Moslem when he points out that it is not that easy to go further with their relationship. When Ghita doubts his loyalty he swears, but she will not believe him unless he swears by the Jewish God. One of the ambiguous moments in the film is when he puts the Cross of David on her neck, the which she likes. Ghita seems capable of renegation, insinuating that she seeks the freedom Islam denies her in Judaism. With Ghita going over-laic, ‘things fall apart and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’, to put it in the words of W.B.Yeats.79
Photo: 4

Youri and Ghita: The clash of their bodies is a lot more tempestuous than the sea!

Marrakshi uses the Cross of David as a Zionist symbol. In so doing, Marrakshi blends Judaism with Zionism, the two being radically different. This ambiguity on the film-maker’s part makes it hard for the viewer to determine from which vantage-point to view Youri. Is Youri the Morrocan Jew who has co-existed with his Moroccan co-nationals? Or, is he Youri the Zionist whose country-men are slaughtering the Arabs like goats in Palestine? The first is to be welcomed. The second is not. As a matter of course, Youri reiterates one of the stereotypical portraits painted of Arabs. ‘You Arabs’, he tells Ghita, ‘want to convert everybody else’,80 evidencing the adamant Jewish doxa. It is not just that, but Youri the Jew, an also Frenchized Moroccan, is represented in far more positive regard. He is the winner of the race he partakes of. He is the victor in the football match and he is loyal to love in refusing to couch one of the two girls his friend brings to his house. Conversely, the picture drawn of Ghita’s brother the Moslem is that of a hypocrite, who has killed a boy in a car accident driving at a breath-taking speed and having his father clearing the case. After the death of Youri who has been made the hero of the film, the saviour of Ghita and her liberator from a culture she grows all the more to abhor and cannot fit into because of its morality, Ghita leaves Morocco. In so doing, she leaves a culture that denies her the ‘freedom’ she yearns for, the freedom of belonging, the freedom of sex, the freedom from patriarchy and from the thousand and one taboos.Yet, just as we accept Youri as a Jew and not as a Zionist, as part and parcel of the Moroccan society, Islam shpild by no means be portraitured a faith lesser than Judaism.

No two would argue to the Moroccaness of the Jewish minority dwelling in Morocco. They have lived as most of the Jewish diaspora world-wide with their Moslem compatriots side by side, perpetuating their religious beliefs and way of life. However, with regard to the religious barriers, Marrakshi’s call from without is what tightens the plot and leads to an anti-climatic forgone conclusion. As we watch the film we grow certain that Youri shall not live. A Moslem may have well served the plot. In ending his life, Marrakshi transfigures him not only into a martyr but also into a victim, which he is surely not. Youri reminds us of the rigidity of Judaism which prohibits misogenation as being a reversion from the faith. Youri, thus, is the victim of his conviction not of Ghita’s religion for he knows deep down that a Moslem woman cannot couple herself with a man of another faith. He finds Ghita’s over-simplification of how he can wed her unconvincing. He cannot ‘Just utter a few words’81 to ensure his entrance to Islam and hence to bring their clandastine love affair before the public eye. Youri reminds her that ‘things aren’t that easy’.82

To round up my rendering of the film, I would say that in France’s behalf Marrakshi is Morocco’s tiller as Marock grows to fit the exotic fruit of that tillage. To exoticize and Orientalize her own homeland is to return the grace France has on her. The class Marrakshi belongs to and depicts is the legacy of a French capitalist empire. And being the heiress of France, Marrakshi remains the loyal servant of the empire. France has not only taught her in its schools but also sponsored her film. No wonder it is through French eyes that Marrakshi views Morocco. As the film is more addressed to an audience than an act of remembering of Marrakshi’s adolescence, the film cannot claim realism. It has its ideology.

On the other hand, the over-laity the film displays is so tyrannical that religion is granted no room; cast aside. Yet, if Ghita does ‘not need religion to sleep in tranquility’, 83 religion is her brother’s only resort to redeem his past sin. In the face of all the Orientalist pronouncements hurled at Islam, Islam in the person of Mao shall live. In holding his sister in his arms by the end of the film, Mao’s brotherly gesture toward his sister gives the proof that to be a Moslem is to be merciful. The mature Mao looks not to his sister’s misdeeds for he knows she is an adolescent. He forgives her.

Judaism is done huge violence as it is equated with Zionism, the Star of David being the equator. The religious borders Marrakshi so endeavours to cross get more cemented as the impossibility of uniting Ghita and Youri looms large. Ghita’s pursuit of freedom with the agency of Youri breaks down. His death leaves her like a fish out of water. For her to live again is to leave the land of the taboos. Were a fellow Moslem entrusted with ‘liberating’ the girl, Ghita’s story would run a far happier course.

Moroccan identity, so to speak, is expressed in moments so scant and through characters so minor. The guardians of Moroccanness in the film are the servants, the maids and the chauffeurs of the family. It is the housekeeper that warns Ghita against giving up the jewel of her maidhood, her virginity, which Ghita does not cherish; fails to keep. It is no other than Moui Fatma who blames Ghita for eating Ramadan.

Likewise, the chauffeur asks her why she likes to listen to such loud rock’an’roll music. She asks him why he does not like it. He responds that he does not get it. That, Ghita states, goes for her, too, except that she loves it. Moroccan identity is also represented via the trodden-upon young mortals of Casablancan streets, selling Hashish and cigarettes, glue-sniffing and dressing in the most miserable and direful manner imaginable. This is Morocco from bellow which Marrakshi fails to investigate. It is these Moroccans who speak Morocanness.

I shall conclude by saying that Marrakshi acts in contradiction to her being Moroccan. Instead of furthering the cause of its country towards identitarian and cultural liberation and decolonization, Marock fails to make ‘culture, cinema, and beauty – at least, what is of greatest importance to us – become our culture, our films, and our sense of beauty’.84

Main Sources:
Marock. Dir. Marrakshi, Laila. France and Morocco: La Fabrique de Films, Victory Films, 2005.
Works Cited:
a- Theory and Film Studies:
Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author,” Image, Music, Text, ed and Trans. Stephen Heath. Newyork: Hill, 1977.

Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routelage, 1994.

Dwyer, Kevin. Beyond Casabalnca: M. A. Tazi and the Adventure of Moroccan Cinema. Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2004.

El Masnaoui, Mustapha. Abhat fi Cinema Al Maghribiah. Casablanca: Impremerie Najah El Jadida, 2001.

Pines, Jim and Willemen, Paul. Questions of Third Cinema. London: British Film Institute, 1989.

Said, Edward W. Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of The World. London: Vintage, 1997.

Orientalism. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

Spurr, David. The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing and Imperial Administration. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993.

Submission. Dir. Ali, Ayaan Hirsi and Gogh, Van. Holland: The name of the distributor is not available, 2004.
b- Periodicals in journals and magazines:

Baha, Abdellah, “Report on Marock.” Attajdid, 14 May (2006).

Dahan, Mohamed. “Letter to Sawt Annass.” Attajdid, 21 May (2006)

Boukhari, Karim. “Marock: le film de tous les tabous.” TelQuel, 29 April (2006).

Houdaifa, Hicham and Tounassi, Feduoa. “Marock: le vrai débat.” Le Journal, 27 May (2006).

Tahkik, Al-hawadeth magazine, 18 August (2006)

c- Web sites:

El Aine, Abdelkbir. “Interview with Marrakshi.”

For photos 1, 2, 3, and 4 see

1 I reverse Bhabha’s ‘same but not quite’ as I view the native Marrakshi through native eyes. See Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routelage, 1994), p. 86.

2 This phrase is an allusion to the title of David Spurr’s book The Rhetoric of Empire. See David Spurr, The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing and Imperial Administration (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993).

3 Edward Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (London: Vintage, 1997), p. 164.

4 Ibid.

5 Mustapha El Masnaoui, Abhat fi Cinema Al Maghribiah (Casablanca: Impremerie Najah El Jadida, 2001), p. 22.

6 PJD stands for the Party of Justice and Development. Translations are mine, unless otherwise stated.

7Abdellah Baha, “Report on Marock,” Attajdid, 14 May (2006), p. 3.

8 Ibid.

9 CCM stands for the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre.

10 Abdellah Baha, “Report on Marock,” Attajdid, 14 May (2006), p. 3.


12Abdelkader El Aine, “Interview with Marakshi,” web page:

13Bilal Talidi, “Interview with Bilal,” Le Journal, 27 May (2006), p. 22.

14 Ibid.

15Ibid., p. 23.

16 Ibid.

17Ibid., p. 24.


19Ibid., p. 25

20Mohamed Asli quoted by Boukhari, “Marock: le film de tous les tabous,” TelQuel, 29April (2006), p 45

21Mohamed Dahan, “Letter to Sawt Annass,” republished by Attajdid, 21May (2006), p. 3.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Karim Boukhari, “Marock: le film de tous les tabous,” TelQuel, 29 April (2006), p. 45.

25Hicham Houdaifa and Fedoua Tounassi, “Marock: le vrai débat,” Le Journal, 27May (2006), p.20.


27PPS stands for the Party of Progress and Socialism.

28Nabil Benabdellah quoted by Houdaifa and Fedoua Tounassi, “Marock: le vrai débat,” Le Journal, 27May (2006), p.20.


30UMP signifies the Party of the Union of Popular Mouvements.

31Mohamed Amaskane quoted by Houdaifa and Fedoua Tounassi, “Marock: le vrai débat,” Le Journal, 27May (2006), p.20.

32USFP stands for the Party of the Socialist Union of the Popular Forces.

33Driss Lachgar quoted by Houdaifa and Fedoua Tounassi, “Marock: le vrai débat,” Le Journal, 27May (2006), p.20.

34PSU stands for the Socialist Unified Party.

35 Nabila Mounib quoted by Houdaifa and Fedoua Tounassi, “Marock : le vrai débat,” Le Journal. Le Journal, May (2006), p. 21.

36 Ibid.

37Abdellah Bekkali quoted by Houdaifa and Fedoua Tounassi, “Marock : le vrai débat,” Le Journal.

38Karim Boukhari, “Marock : le film de tous les tabous,” TelQuel, 29 April (2006), p. 40.

39Ibid., p. 42

40Ibid., p. 47.


42Ibid., p. 46.

43 Ibid., p. 45.

44Hicham Houdaifa and Fedoua Tounassi, “Marock: le vrai débat,” Le Journal, 27May (2006), p.20.

45Ibid., p. 21.

46 Ibid.

47 Abdellah Zaazaa, “Interview with Zaazaa,” Le Journal.

48 Ibid.

49 Ibid.

50 Ibid., p.23.

51A Socioligist who prefers to keep himself anonymous. See the website

52Laila Marrakshi, “Interview with Marrakshi.” See the website

53See the website


55Edward Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World, p. 162.

56Laila Marrakshi, “Interview with Marrakshi.” See the website:


58Karim Boukhari, “Marock: le film de tous les tabous,” TelQuel, 29April (2oo6), p.42

59 Ibid.

60Kevin Dwyer, Beyond Casablanca: M.A.Tazi and the Adventure of Moroccan Cinema (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2004), p. 158.

61Karim Boukhari quoting Marrakshi, “Marock: le film de tous les tabous,” TelQuel, 29April (2oo6), p.42.

62Laila Marrakshi, “Interview with Marrakshi,” Le Journal, 27 May (2006), p. 21.

63See Roland Barthes, “Death of the Author,” Image, Music, Text, ed and Trans. Stephen Heath (Newyork: Hill, 1977).

64See Mustapha El Masnaoui, Abhat fi Cinema AlMaghribiah (Casablanca: Impremerie Najah El Jadida, 2001), pp. 88-132.

65The original text reads “a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opnions, in morals and intellect”. See Homi Bhabha, The Location of culture, p.87.

66Mustapha Masnaoui, Abhat fi Cinema Al Maghribiah, p.22.

67 Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin Books, 2003), p.1.

68For the other dogmas inscribed within the Orientalist mind, see Edward Said, Orientalism, pp. 300-01.

69As Theo Van Gogh insists on putting his name on Submission, the12 minutes film costs him his life. He is shot and stabbed to death by a Moslem as his film mocks Islam. See

70Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Theo van Gogh, Submission. (Holland, no information about its distributor is available, 2004).

71 Ibid.

72 Laila Marrakshi, Marock (France and Morocco: La Fabrique de Films, Victory Films, 2005).



75 Laila Marrakshi, Marock.

76Commander of believers or ‘Amir Al Mouminin’ in Islam is the ruler of the state who must needs rule according to the Islamic law or Shari’a and hence be a religious authority in matters Islamic.

77Laila Marrakshi, Marock.

78Edward Said interviewed by Stuart Hall, “Questios of National Identity,” BBC-The Open University, (Date is not found. Hower, one can assume with near certainty that the program was made in the 1980s with regard to Hall’s productivity during this period.

79William.B.Yeats, “The Second Coming”.

80Here Youri defines himself interms of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ binarism. He views the Arab as his other.

81Laila Marrakshi, Marock. Here, Ghita minimizes the whole faith to a few words.

82Laila Marrakshi, Marock. Youri reveals that he will not forsake his faith. If Ghita can go Jewish to be betrothed to him, he cannot turn Moslem to wed her.

83Laila Marrakshi, Marock.

84Fernardo Solanas and Octavio Gettino quoted by Jim Pines and Paul Willemen, Questions of Third Cinema (London: British Film Institute,1989), p. 30.


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