Casablanca Beats | Film critic
April 25, 2022
It’s incredibly easy to imagine a Hollywood studio grabbing the remake rights to director Nabil Ayouch’s low-key charmer of a film, transplanting the story to an American city, tweaking certain elements to create a comforting and manipulative effect. emotionally, and diluting the original beyond that. recognition. It would be a little shame if this hypothetical scenario ever came true. Despite its occasional narrative uselessness, Casablanca Beats has a geography-specific vibrancy and credibility that would be hard to replicate.
Anas (Anas Basbousi) is a rapper whose seemingly brief glory days are behind him. He takes a job teaching hip-hop to teenagers in an arts center in Sidi Moumen, on the outskirts of Casablanca. Anas and his young students all share their real first names with their characters, as they all play fictionalized versions of themselves. That’s because the film’s rather imprecise story was inspired by the Positive School of Hip Hop – an actual arts program started by the film’s director.
In press interviews after Casablanca Beats makes its competition debut at Cannes (in 2021), details on the film’s construction shed light on the end result. Seemingly shot over a long period of time, with key developments and studio footage during production, the story has a sense of improvisation. If it sometimes seems to lack momentum, it’s probably because the creative team was creating a narrative that (at the time) didn’t have a clear conclusion in mind. A little more definition would have made for a sharper (and a little more satisfying) story, which sometimes feels like it’s dithering before deciding on its next steps.
In one of his first acts as a teacher, Anas not too subtly deconstructs the lyrics produced by his students, suggesting that in trying to emulate American rappers, his young proteges are opting for assignments, instead of authenticity, passion and catharsis that comes from personalizing their efforts. For those without much knowledge of hip-hop, students’ expressive efforts can be difficult to distinguish from their previous attempts. However, you don’t need to have any real knowledge or affinity with the genre to connect with Ayouch’s warm and wonderfully unsentimental work.
Casablanca Beats releases in select theaters on the 29thand April 2022.
Watch the trailer for Casablanca Beats here: