Casablanca Beats Review | Film

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Anas (Anas Basbousi), a charismatic ex-rapper, arrives in Casablanca to start a new job at an arts center, teaching hip-hop to a small group of young people from the city. At first out of step with the bureaucracy of his new concert, Anas and his students soon get into the same rhythm, helping each other to develop their music and their lives.

For moviegoers, the thought of music in the Moroccan capital conjures up scintillating touches, drifting in the smoke of Rick’s American Café; songs for expatriates and intruders, Bogart and Bergman, not the Casablancans themselves. The charming new film by Nabil Ayouch gives the microphone to the young Moroccans who live in the city today, with the story of a temperamental rap teacher and a group of students who, thanks to the magic of hip-hop, find their own voice.

If it looks like Dead Poets Society with a backing track, you’re not far off, but Ayouch’s observational approach to capturing music lessons makes it stand out slightly from the class. Working with non-professionals playing semi-fictional characters, there’s a raw authenticity here that, combined with close-up, kinetic camerawork and overlapping dialogue, lends exciting momentum to the student workshops. Warm, complex and very real discussions of religion and politics ping pong the room, evolving from debate to powerful lyrics, all heading towards the predictable final stage of a musical film: the big concert. .

It is in its most surprising formal approaches that Casablanca Beats is strongest

Outside of school, domesticity reveals the often disconcerting inspirations of pupils’ rallying songs; though lightly sketchy and overly melodramatic, these snapshots highlight the film’s emphasis on the escapist power of music. The idea is explored more dynamically and interestingly in stylized music videos that liven up the narrative, revealing the fantastic effect that artistic creation can have on people, even if it’s just magical, realistic twists.

It is in his most surprising formal approaches, whether in a more documentary or expressionist mode that — while remaining prisoner of a somewhat too familiar narrative melody — Casablanca Beats is at its strongest. Once in this groove, the film transforms from a real crowd pleaser into an invigorating rally for the arts and self-expression.

Casablanca Beats hits a lot of cliches on the educational drama cue sheet, but still manages to find invigorating new variations on the formula. The lesson plan is familiar, but it’s still worth attending this rap school.

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