From the opening introduction by Omar Sharif, I knew I was going to love this film, it was simply a matter of how deep that love would be.
Well, it’s 9/10 deep.
The story is that patriarch Moulay Hassan Bel Amor, (played by Sharif) has passed away and his family and friends are gathering to mourn him, remember him and, as it turns out, occasionally curse him.
Beyond that, I’ll give no spoilers here but this family, like all families, has long-buried secrets and pain that it ignores as best it can.
The central role is that of Sofia (Morjana Alaoui), one of the daughters who has not been home in years. She’s now a successful Hollywood actress and has her own reasons for estrangement from the wider family. Now, she’s back in the family home, accompanied by her young son.
Through the frame of the loss of their father, the remaining three sisters and mother examine both his and their lives. This could be clunky and awkward but it all unfolds elegantly and believably: no lumpy exposition dumps here. Writer/director Laïla Marrakchi balances the interweaving narratives perfectly.
Some of the plots are slyly humorous, some of them tragic but they balance and in that balance they feel real, they connect. It would have been easy to gallop into shouty family revelation drama or overdose on whimsy and farce. Rock The Casbah does neither and though all the cast are fabulous in their portrayals, the lion’s share of the credit must go to Marrakchi – her command of the art form of cinema shines in every scene, in every frame.
The cast also mesh without a hiccup, the three central sisters’ relationship in particular is detailed and rich, one second they’re screaming at each other, the next crying on each other’s shoulders. And it all makes emotional sense. But, truly, the entire ensemble are all on 100% here, there’s not a single actor who isn’t in the same vibe as the rest of them.
I really love this film and I know I’ll be thinking of scenes from it years from now. It’s funny, sad, and leaves you thinking about more than you think the film explicitly addressed.