Moroccan road film subverts Hollywood stereotypes

Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:51am EST
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By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI (Reuters) - When director John Slattery first visited Morocco, the familiarity was jarring - and as removed from the images of an exotic Orient conjured up by Hollywood as possible.

That dichotomy between the representation and the reality of Morocco drives Slattery's charming paean to a country he clearly loves and makes "Casablanca, Mon Amour" a thoughtful rejoinder to U.S. popular culture.

Two young Moroccans spend three weeks travelling their native country, filming what they see on a digital camera while passing by studios and locations that have formed the backdrop for many Hollywood blockbusters, an industry Morocco has cultivated.

The film is spliced with shots of endearingly bemused or nervous ordinary people giving their thoughts to the camera about Hollywood and its global stars, as well as clips from classics such as "Casablanca" featuring off-the-cuff anti-Arab slurs like "you can't trust them" and "they all look alike".

"We had the idea of going on this trip and to be this stupid American film crew going to make this traditional movie using Morocco, but we wanted to subvert that," Slattery said after a screening at the Dubai international film festival this week.

"There was not really a script but the trip was their trip and so wherever they went we followed them. So that way they were really directing the film."

Shot by Hassan, who narrates the road trip in French, the images shift from scenes of daily life caught on camera, to his comically testy relationship with his travelling companion Abdel, to a troupe they stumble upon in Meknes that plays traditional Moroccan "malhoun" music.

Hassan, a real-life film school student at the time, is using the road trip for a class project, while Abdel wants to visit a dying uncle on the other side of the country.   Continued...