Morocco Movies: 7 Cinematic Journeys begins with our top movie picks, then is followed by a list of movies made by Moroccans. We round out with a list of non-Moroccan movies that were filmed in the country.
And please: If you have a pick of your own, or a bone to pick with one or our recommendations (or non-recommendations), please leave a comment!
Morocco Movies: Top Picks
If you’ve already read the post: Head Roam’s Morocco Top 5, you may want to skip directly to Morocco Movies by Moroccans or Morocco Movies by non-Moroccans.
Feature Movie: I would love to recommend a movie made by Moroccans in their native country, they’re not easy to find in the west (though there are a few listed below). I had read the book Hideous Kinky and didn’t care for it a whole heap. But the movie is quite good, and Kate Winslet thrives under director Gillies MacKinnon’s clean gaze, free of the annoying Victorian Valley Girl whinge of Titanic. Filmed in Marrakech, the movie does one of the best jobs I’ve seen of conveying the particular feeling of being stuck in a country, completely unsure of your next move. [great to link to Peru book here]. Playing opposite her, Saïd Taghmaoui, a French actor of Moroccan descent, charms and infuriates. The two meet when Taghmaoui’s character is performing in Djemaa el Fna square. The trailer is low-res and doesn’t look so good, but the content is good.
Documentary: As with a feature, I didn’t have an easy time finding a documentary made in Morocco, about Morocco, by Moroccans. So I’ll settle for an introduction from one of my favorite travelers of all time, Michael Palin. His series Sahara, in which he crosses that desert, kicks off with Tangier, crosses the Atlas Mountains to Fez and Marrakech, and spends a little time with the Berber people. Palin’s curiosity and chilled-out presence get occasionally slightly ruffled in that quiet way that only British people get slightly ruffled. Their eybrows go up just a fraction, their mouths tense just a fraction, their heads tilt just a fraction—and all the while you can tell they’re experiencing some sort extreme agitation internally, but they’re too polite to show it. It’s adorable.
If you’re at all interested in North Africa, the entire series is a fine intro. Palin doesn’t shy away from some intense topics. At one point in a later episode, he has a quiet but disconcerting discussion with a French aid worker on the practice of female genital mutilation. So it’s not all fluff and watching him uneasily learn to ride a camel. Watch Episode 1 of Sahara on YouTube.
Morocco Movies by Moroccans
I began Nabil Ayouch’s Much Loved, but didn’t finish it. Mind you, I have nothing against gritty, depressing movies about prostitutes. I just have the same amount of hours in a day as everyone else, and, well, Head Roam’s got a lot of countries to visit. There’s an outstanding review of Much Loved on its imdb page, by runamokprods; I recommend you check it out before either tuning in on Netflix or writing it off. (You have to leave this site and watch the trailer on YouTube.)
Ayouch also directed Horses of God, something I didn’t realize when I began watching it. I liked Horses of God much better than Much Loved; I had just finished reading For Bread Alone and there’s a definite kinship in the material. I couldn’t find it online; I got it from my library. Here’s the trailer.
The final readily available Ayouch offering is Razzia. I haven’t yet had time to watch it, but the trailer is gorgeous.
This review from Screen Daily, calling Razzia an “ambitious, beautifully modulated film.” The story follows five characters across a number of years, eventually weaving them all together, similar to Babel, below. If you’re up for a deep dive, this is a great, daring spot to jump from.
Morocco Movies by Non-Moroccans
I hate to break it to you: Casablanca was shot on a studio set. It’s a great movie, but they really could have named it anything from “Gibraltor,” to “Algiers,” to “Tunis,” to “Cairo.” Casablanca, of course, has a marvelous ring to it. So watch it as a great classic. But don’t watch it thinking it really has anything to do with Morocco. (Ditto Morocco, in which Marlene Dietrich is jaw-droppingly sexy. Again, little to do with Morocco, though there is a pretty iconic desert shot in the last couple of minutes, doubtless filmed in the Mojave.)
I loved Babel when I first saw it. Like Razzia (above), it interweaves three stories. Only one is set in Morocco, in the Atlas mountains; the other two parts are Tokyo and a small town in Mexico. It’s a relatively early work from Alexander Iñarritu (who also directed Birdman and The Revenant). Critics were mixed and sometimes quite grouchy; if you like your movies to be relatively neat, well, this isn’t for you. If, however, you don’t mind a bit of a windy (and quite hypnotic road), Babel is great. There are particularly fine performances from Mohamed Akhzam, Rinko Kikuchi, and Adriana Barraza, as well as many others from more famous folks like Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Gael Garcia Bernal.
Steve and I really loved Changing Times, from André Techiné. Catherine Deneuve, still stunning after all these years, reunites, unexpectedly, with her old flame played by Gerard Depardieu, who’s aged into a fat but still sexy old bull. They’re in Tangier, which is both gorgeous but of course deeply divided between rich and poor. Stephen Holden’s review puts it nicely: “No one [in Mr. Techiné’s films]https://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/14/movies/14chan.html is weighed down by too much psychological baggage. He accepts that human behavior is mysterious and unpredictable. Even his unhappiest characters are players in a larger vision of a multicultural world in continual flux.”
Also, this trailer will teach you how to say “shit” in French.
I haven’t watched Bertolucci’s adaptation of The Sheltering Sky. This trailer is reason enough for me to skip it. But you know. Be my guest.
Call for Entries: Seen any good movies lately? (Not necessarily Moroccan ones.) Let us know in the comments!