Marrakesh, Asharq Al-Awsat- A new film currently in cinemas all over Morocco has been a source of controversy in recent weeks.
The film entitled ‘Abdou Ind Almohadeen’, directed by Said Naciri who also stars in the film, tells the story of a young man called Abdou who spends most of his time in the popular square, Djamaa al Fna in Marrakech where he attempts to sell anything he can to tourists to earn a living. One day however, he is chased by police and runs into an area used by a group of scientists in search of a map drawn by the famous geographer, Sharif al Idrissi otherwise known as Mohammed al Idrissi, said to be the first to have drawn a correct map of the world. In the film, the scientists are in search of a map engraved on a silver coin weighing 400 pounds, and commemorated by King Roger II of Sicily. As the film’s protagonist runs, he is caught by the laser of a machine used by the scientists and as a result, is transported through time from modern-day Marrakesh to the same city under the rule of the Caliph Yacoub al Mansour during the Almohad dynasty.
The concept of time-travel, upon which the film is based, has been used time and time again in both Arab and non-Arab productions for example, ‘Risala Ila Wali’ (Message to the Wali) starring Adel Imam, and ‘Black Knight’, an American production featuring Martin Lawrence.
The cast of ‘Abdou Ind Almohadeen’ brings together a cast of Moroccan actors such as Abdullah El Amrani, Driss Rokhe, Sallah Benmoussa, Sanaa Akroud, Mustapha Tahtah, Anouar al Joundi, Abdeljabbar Lawzir, as well as others. As well as taking on the lead role, Said Naciri directed and wrote the film.
The film has received a mixed reaction from the public as well provoking criticism from historians and film critics alike. Some have stated that “Naciri created the character of Abdou for himself so that he is the main drive of the film.”
Despite that ‘Abdou Ind Almohadeen’ is the director’s third production, preceded by two comedies ‘Banadiya’ (Bandits) and ‘Ouled Darb’, according to the critics, this did not prevent Naciri from committing errors represented through “the use of classical language in the dialogue,” and “the way in which the Almohad era was portrayed,” especially during the reign of the Caliph Yacoub al Mansour. History books tell us that this ruler was firm, sought justice, and fought oppression and ordered that nobody would be given the death sentence until the case was brought before him. Therefore, it was odd that in the film, the Almohad soldiers sought to kill the protagonist under the command of Wali Abu Hassan and his entourage who accused Abdou of being a spy sent by their enemy Sakhr Ibn Ghaniyah.
The movie presented the markets of Marrakesh along with the city’s armies, rulers, palaces, hospitals, intellects, philosophers, scientists and men of literature in an inaccurate way for a powerful dynasty that ruled from Egypt to Andalusia. The Almohad dynasty, of which the heritage sites of Koutoubiya in Marrakesh, Giralda in Seville and Tour Hassan in Rabat, demonstrate its glory, was subject to raids, attacks and enslavement of its princesses at the hands of Sakhr Ibn Ghaniyah.
What is interesting is that whilst we see the palaces of the Maghreb region and Andalusia being celebrated in Syrian soaps, films such as ‘Abdou Ind Almohadeen’ fail to portray the Alhomad era in a precise manner.
Ibn Rushd appeared sick and piteous. Although his death was the end of a historical era, his knowledge and philosophy lived on to inspire Paris and Oxford. Moreover, the character of Yacoub al Mansour appeared in the film stuttering and lacking the prestige of a ruler and Caliph. The film also demonstrated misery in the streets of Marrakesh and torturous prisons as a result of tyrannical rule. It is apparent that the film focused much more on its mission of making its audience laugh through the concept of time-travel.
‘Abou Ind Almohadeen’ is a cinematic myth between reality and imagination. Despite its efforts in creating and linking events, Naciri has used his usual methods to make the audience laugh. It is true that the film is simple from a technical cinematic outlook; it is enough for sheer entertainment. Its scenes are exaggerated and it is evident that some lack strong directing skills; however the question is was the film successful in making its audience laugh? The answer is almost.