Rock the Casbah (2013)

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Rock the Casbah obitelj

The newly restored Kino Edison Karlovac is only counting its first cinematic season. The regular cinema program has been held since September 2023. , but in this short period the cinema easily found its place on the cultural map of Croatia. June 2024 is the designated Arab Film and Culture Month, opening with a Moroccan tea and sweets ceremony followed by the 2013 film Rock the Casbah .

Rock the Casbah is a somewhat unusual choice. The film deals with a family from high society (read extremely rich) whose head of the family has just passed away. Moulay Hassan Ben Amor opens the film with the peaceful chirping of birds as the sun’s rays pass through the canopy of his favourite fig tree. In Morocco, he teaches us, they say that the dead rule the living. That seems to be the reason why his spirit lingers on to watch over the family he left behind.

Hassan’s wife Aicha (Hiam Abbass) is anxious about organizing the reception for guests who will come to express their condolences. Her husband was never satisfied with anything, so it bothers her that he’d probably find fault with her organization. She is shadowed by the housekeeper Yakout (Fatima Herandi Raouya) as a recognizable character of the servant who knows more about the house and the relationships in the house than her employers.

Ben Amor sisters

Hassan is survived by three daughters and Sofia (Morjana Alaoui) is returning to Tangier from the USA after a long time. Predictably, her marriage to an American as well as her acting career will become a source of tension when the family is forced to spend a lot of time together. Her sisters Miriam (Nadine Labaki) and Kenza (Lubna Azabal) will resent her for not visiting earlier, but also for refusing to follow the accepted social traditions. The real issue, however, will turn out to be the father’s controlling hand, which had a different influence on each sister.

Rock the Casbah film still

Sofia became rebellious, while Miriam became preoccupied with her appearance. She exhausted esthetic surgery so now she is thinking about occupying herself with adultery. Kenza, on the other hand, did everything to her father’s wishes – from choosing a career to choosing a husband. The three sisters love each other, but when they argue, they blame each other for what they probably regret not having tried themselves. They also miss their fourth sister, Leila, who they lost to suicide. She could not comply to her father’s wishes, nor live according to them.

Director and screenwriter Laïla Marrakchi skilfully outlines her characters even with such minimal information. Each sister is sketched into a complete personality. What makes the film a touch implausible is that each character – from the maid Yacout to Hassan’s mother – carries an issue of Moroccan society that the director wants to tackle. Ultimately, each of the characters seeks a way to grow into their own despite their weaknesses within the rigid structure set by the patriarch(y).

When all the truths come out, Rock the Casbah includes a wide variety of extreme situations that take it over the edge of melodrama. Although it’s only 100 minutes long, it feels slow in some parts and too busy in others. The choice of the main actors is also surprising, none of whom are of Moroccan origin, and the head of the family is played by no other than Omar Sharif.

omar sharif

Nevertheless, Rock the Casbah provides an insight into Moroccan life that most European audiences are certainly not often exposed to. The upper class lifestyle is similar all over the world. But just because it opens many doors does not mean that it doesn’t also bind its members to accepted behaviour. Morocco in Rock the Cashbah show us the big city life with familarly complicated family relationships that all class members can identify with.

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