All Women, All Week

  International Women's Day, at least in Tangier, looks more like Women's Week.  Today, of course, March 8, is the official day.  But things started here on Tuesday, with the Cinémathèque launching a Nadia Kaci film retrospective, then her one-woman show "Ladies In(tro)spection," part of a trilogy involving views of women in Morocco (the woman … Read more All Women, All Week

Tangier Filmmaker Finds His Dream Audience – at TALIM


TALIM Poster Legation-muslimchildhood


El Ayel – A Muslim Childhood – Le Gosse de Tanger

Poster by AST Head Librarian Serena Epstein

"They accuse me of making 'intellectual' films, so the presence here of so many women from the medina – from our Beni Idder neighborhood where Le Gosse de Tanger is set – is extremely important to me."  So Moumen Smihi, veteran Tangier and Paris filmmaker, greeted our very respectable gathering on Wednesday, on the margins of Morocco's National Film Festival, in Tangier for the 13th year running.

"Respectable," not only in terms of the quality of the people attending, but in their number: we had literally just gotten the word out less than 24 hours before, and our posters (above) were only distributed hours before our showing.  But most importantly, the women that Moumen Smihi were referring to were "our" women from the TALIM-FTAM women's literacy program housed at the Legation.

Why was this so important, to us and to the filmmaker?  Well, it was a first.  Smihi is used to appearing before cinéphile audiences, congnoscenti who know what he means when he compares his returning references to the Tangier of his youth to Woody Allen's use of New York as a setting for his films: "it's the place I know best… with its multiplicity of languages and cultures, and the destiny of people to live together, whatever it takes."

And it was that aspect of Le Gosse de Tanger (2005, 90 minutes) that spoke most strongly to the women of our literacy program.  Several of the older ones (Smihi's film takes place in the 1950s, when Tangier was still the International Zone) vividly remember this very neighborhood in the days when Muslim mothers brought in Spanish seamstresses to make trousers for their sons, or a Jewish matron sought advice from a Muslim sage, or Christian prostitutes shared the street with their colleagues from the other communities.

Sure, the x-rated language of the Fifties-era street kids did shock some in the audience, and some of the mothers regretted that they couldn't show the film to their children.  Of course Moumen Smihi understands this, but explained that his goal was to portray the reality of growing up in a time and place where the respectable lived next door to the rejected, and the tempations of the street were a danger to boys even from the happiest of families.

For our impromtu showing, we even had the benefit of academic analysis – in French and Arabic – by Dr. Peter Limbrick of the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), Smihi friend and professor of Arab and Middle Eastern cinemas.  Be sure to read Peter's excellent "guest post" after the page break at the bottom of this post.*

There are touches of Cinema Paradiso here, and one of the most memorable images is of the little friend "Ouahrani" mesmerized in one of Tangier's old cinemas before the flickering black and white images of a world that he will never grow up to know.  Moumen Smihi has given us a loving, lasting work, one that would be a nice addition to any serious study of Tangier, International Zone, as seen by the Muslim population of the time.

Gerald Loftus

*UPDATE 29 January: Guest Post by Dr. Peter Limbrick

A Muslim Childhood at TALIM: Putting le gosse back in Tangier!

One of best things about writing and teaching about film is getting to experience a film with new


Read moreTangier Filmmaker Finds His Dream Audience – at TALIM

Copyleft Your True Story: Histoires Vraies de Méditerranée

    François Beaune wants your (true) story.  Your Mediterranean story, in whatever language (French, Arabic, Hebrew, English, Spanish… the Med is a melting pot of languages too) you choose. And though the invitation is open – "I believe in copyleft, and want stories to be shared" – there are some conditions for submissions. Inspired … Read more Copyleft Your True Story: Histoires Vraies de Méditerranée

CLS Tangier: Language, Culture & Heritage

TALIM's Fatima Benguerch with CLS students and women's literacy group As the State Department funded 2011 Arabic Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program in Tangier draws to a close, it's time to reflect on what makes Tangier a special place to learn Arabic.  Tangier is but one of several sites for CLS Arabic programs; there is … Read more CLS Tangier: Language, Culture & Heritage

Deciphering Moroccan Arabic, 1911 – 2011

"Shnoo the Hell is Going on H'naa?" – the subtitle to Aaron Sakulich's book Moroccan Arabic (Collaborative Media International) – probably captures the bewilderment of many a foreign student of darija or Moroccan colloquial Arabic. For modern day students trying to fathom how to transition from what they learn in Modern Standard or classical Arabic … Read more Deciphering Moroccan Arabic, 1911 – 2011

Graduation Day Is When You Can Read Your Diploma

I don't yet have the picture of the smiling women who were handed their diplomas yesterday, but here's a diploma of someone who missed graduation day (click on picture to enlarge.) My favorite "graduate" wasn't even at the end of her program.  But our teacher gave her a diploma as a sort of "Ms. Congeniality" … Read more Graduation Day Is When You Can Read Your Diploma

Moroccan-American Relations: Photo Interpretation, Please

For years, it has been hanging in the courtyard of the American Legation in Tangier.  The red, white, and blue are now faded, dirty.  Poor Old Glory. The courtyard is, after all, subject to the desert dust of the chergui as the Moroccans call the East wind off the Sahara.  When it's the Atlantic wind, … Read more Moroccan-American Relations: Photo Interpretation, Please