Rock the Casbah
Starring Omar Sharif, Hiam Abbass, Lubna Azabal, Nadine Labaki and Morjana Alaoui
Directed by Laila Marrakchi
Yes, despite it being set in Islamic Morocco, Rock the Casbah doesn’t have the most original premise. But at least it has a good mix of the tragic and the comic. The characters contend with the death of their father Moulay (Sharif). It’s structured to tell its story in three days, which is how long the rituals take place. Class finds itself as a theme, as the family’s matriarch Aicha (Abbass) concerns herself with what and who is in the ceremonies. It’s an accessible look at the process without being condescending or fetishistic the culture it depicts.
But we don’t see the movie’s perspective through Aicha’s eyes. Which means that Moulay gets to narrate what happens in the mourning household, doing so with light-footed aplomb. The movie also focuses on his daughters and how they see the events happening around them, their personalities shining even during sadness. There’s Kenza the Islamist professor, Miriam the plastic-surgery addict, and Sofia the actress. The first two are played by actresses I love like Azabal and Labaki. Sofia (Alaoui) is basically the movie’s conscience and I would love to see more of her movies. Watch out for a scene where they watch one of Sofia’s movies where she plays a campy terrorist, which is what this climate of post 9-11 cinema needs. Moments like this show the characters’ complex emotions that makes this movie worth watching.