We've seen films-within-films before, usually films about making films. La mosquée, a little gem featured at the 2011 Moroccan National Film Festival, is different. It's a sort of "post-production" film: what happens after the film crew leaves a small Moroccan village?
From the director, Daoud Aoulad-Syad, at last November's Damascus International Film Festival:
For the filming of my last movie "Waiting for Pasolini", sets were built on land leased from local villagers. Among the sets, a mosque was built on the land of Moha, a villager who also appears in the movie. At the end of filming, the filming team leaves the village. Villagers demolish all the sets, except the mosque. This mosque became a real place of prayer for the whole village. For Moha this is a real disaster.
Poor Moha, salt of the earth farmer. He just wants his land back, and it seems that he's the only one around who realizes that the "mosque" is just a prop, literally propped up from behind like any cardboard Western might create an instant church, saloon, or hotel.
Even the new village "imam" is fake, seeing opportunity everywhere: Moha should just get with the plan. This film has everything: local official who has the power to make Moha's life hell; sleazy political candidate who's not above buying your vote with a goat; and an authentic imam in jeans, who says "the djellabah does not make the imam."
Physics professor at Rabat University, the director looks a bit like a Moroccan Bob Marley, and plays himself at the outset. This is a "comedy," but the laughs are all subdued, and not without a melancholy tinge. I will eagerly await Prof. Aoulad-Syad's next offering.
Aoulad-Syad, interviewed on Radio Médi1, said that the Moroccan National Film Festival's selection of 19 shorts and 19 feature films is out of an annual Moroccan production of some 100 films. A very respectable Moroccan showing indeed.
The organizers, the CCM – Centre Cinématographique Marocain – couldn't have chosen a better venue. Tangier's Cinémathèque, a popular cultural attraction in its own right, in the historic Cinéma Rif, has a year-round repertoire of current, classic, and documentary films. The National Film Festival, in its 12th year, keeps coming back to Tangier.
The turnout, on this rainy, cold Sunday afternoon in January, is testimony to the CCM's – and the Cinémathèque's – quality offerings. It also helped that entry was absolutely free!