‘les Mains Rudes’: Discourses of Moroccan-ness


     22 Nov 2012


‘les Mains Rudes’: Discourses of Moroccan-ness   

 It is important to underline the fact that cinema as an ideological apparatus largely plays a great role in imparting a certain number of artistic, aesthetic, ideological, and cultural codes to be decoded by the audience. In other words, a film is to a greater extent a labyrinthine textual structure fraught with numberless underlying codes to be identified and pinpointed by any clever semiotician/spectator. Within this framework, the Moroccan film director Mohamed Assli succeeds in subscribing to this line of thought as the latter wins the bet by coming up with a truly significant masterpiece dubbed “Les Mains Rudes”. As a matter of fact, Assli’s approach adopted in the above-mentioned film reveals that the director under study is fully aware of the message he wants to communicate devoid of any cheap ideology or superficial cinematic conceptualization. So, what makes it really an artistic chef-d’oeuvre?

   As far as Les Mains Rudes is concerned, it is about a story of a youngwoman called Zakia working as a tutor for kids in a marginalized neighbourhood in the metropolitan Casablanca. The latter does not appear to be content with the situation; that is why, she yearns for joining her fiancé in Spain in the hope of getting rid of poverty because she and her mother, who works as a carpet designer, arduously toiling to earn a living. Her fiancé will tell her that a Spanish committee will pay a visit to Morocco so as to select a few women to work in strawberry fields on condition that she has to be a nomad, married and her hands must be rough on top of that. Zakia will ask her neighbour Mustapha who is a hairdresser and also a broker because he helps people meet their needs for some money in return. The latter will provide her with contracts of marriage and birth of two fake children. Furthermore, she makes her best to make her hands look rough as if she is familiar with the toil in fields, but the trick would be uncovered when the committee asks her to expose her feet which turn out to be soft. At this stage, Zakia truly feels humiliated and crushed.

    As to the specificity of the movie, it certainly came to stress that there are brilliant movie directors who are armed with a profound cinematic culture/insight that is rightly far from being caught in the vortex of shallow demagogy. To illustrate, Les Mains Rudes is a worthwhile attempt in this context because it has mainly laid focus on the ills of the contemporary Moroccan society in general, the ups and downs of the marginalized neighbourhoods of the metropolitan Casablanca in particular. Given this focus, it is worthwhile considering that this film is a sincere window on our country in which the dreams of the poor do not come true because of the uphill living conditions.

   From the very beginning, the audience seems to be captivated and spellbound by the first scene of the movie- the scene of birds kept in cages on a building roof- which turns out to be pretty much significant and suggestive because it really sums up the gist of the whole movie. This very scene underlines the fact that everybody in this vast space- the metropolitan Casablanca- appears to be enclosed within their cage of dreams and hopes. In other words, there is no way out or light at the end of the tunnel. The upshot of this line of argument reveals that there is a great deal of professionalism within the film. Interestingly enough, the narration or the story-telling leaves no choice for the audience but to get emotionally engaged with the narrative flow, drama, and romance of the movie. From the thematic perspective, the film plainly handles the issue of immigration with reference to the human conditions. The crucial point here is that there is some sort of intractable desire to immigrate so as to look for better living conditions, but unfortunately those who immigrate to Europe are called upon to give up their dignity. As a consequence, Moroccan citizens are in a far greater ontological dilemma, so to speak.

   It is much more important to note that the film under scrutiny is an artistic condemnation of any sort of human exploitation or enslavement whether in our homeland or in host countries. It is true that this masterpiece tries to bring to light all the aspects of cultural malaise and moral aberration in our contemporary society. Concerning the language/dialogue used in the movie, I would definitely argue that we are more than ever in need of the cinematic language maintained in the film because it proves to be refined to a greater extent.

  With respect to the filming/shooting, it is worthwhile pointing out that it turns out to be professional because throughout the movie we do feel that some images do take the place of the dialogue between characters in a very highly artistic way. The images transmitted are considerably shocking. Taken in this spirit, the film deeply plunges into the real concerns and troubles of the different sections of our Moroccan society. Lots of scenes help the audience pin down the social contradictions. In addition to that, it puts emphasis on the dignity of woman who is going through tribulations and doing her best to earn a living, whereas the man -as is the case in many scenes- seems to squander his time in cafés.

   The camera angles adopted in this film truly sums up Assli’s artistic and aesthetic vision. To put it differently, it is a new promising cinematic paradigm to be upheld instead of the ideological platforms adopted by other movie directors. The choice of spaces is largely is far more relevant and pertinent. The soundtrack also bestows upon the film a romantic and poetic touch because the music played seems to truly match the psychological and mental states/reactions of characters. In fact, part of the impasse partially seems to be settled because towards the end of the movie, there is some sort of satisfactory denouement which finds expression in the marriage of Zakia and Mustapha. Not surprisingly, this marriage in their case is a plausible solution instead of the immigration, especially that of women which is a kind of enslavement. The component of marriage symbolically sums up Assli’s line of thought/argument in this movie.

  All in all, Assli’s Les Mains Rudes is a far more suggestive conciliatory moment with our national identity or our Moroccan-ness. It is actually true that the movie deals with the contradictions of the metropolitan Casablanca, but nevertheless it is one of the rarest movies that extols the components of our Moroccan civilization, especially its deep-seated customs and traditions such as Henna, Ahwach Dance, Moroccan carpet, tea…etc

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