Cinema Review: Casablanca Beats

Posted April 25, 2022 in Cinema Reviews

Director: Nabil Ayouch

Talent: Anas Basboussi

Release Date: April 29

‘FAME! I’m gonna live forever.’ So they said, and that was 1980. The story of young people trying to fulfil their artistic dreams is not a new one nor, it must be said, a very interesting one in 2022. Leaving Alan Parker behind, can the familiar tale of wide-eyed exuberant youth be reborn?

Former rapper Anas (played by real life rapper Anas Basboussi) takes a job as a teacher at a cultural centre. His previous career is alluded to and, living out of his car, he’s clearly down on his luck. His presence sparks serious discussions in the classroom and his abrasive style rubs people the wrong way at first. Eventually, the precocious youths warm to him but only after everyone has spit their rhythms and debated the socio-political strengths of hip hop in modern day Morocco. Can you really say what you want about politics and religion? Is rap an effective device by which to force change? From this class of very likeable characters the film narrows its focus to a few genuinely talented performers each funnelling their issues through their lyrics.

Casablanca Beats is very much about a culture clash and wears its heart quite clearly on its sleeve. The teenagers desperately want to excel and break from traditional Muslim custom by grasping hip hop culture as their means of doing so. But of course, not everyone, parents especially, tolerates this stance.

Other than the inevitable school concert finale, the film manages to skirt many of standard corny scenarios and cliches we’ve seen before. Ayouch has managed to rise above the tired old concept in part by basing the grittier elements on his own background, giving it a teacher with dedication, seriousness and passion. Though it must be said, the character of Anas, the oddly magnetic teacher, is an enigmatic presence and left underdeveloped. It’s a little frustrating, but perhaps it’s right to leave the spotlight on the students.

Though the film does tackle a number of issues, it doesn’t resolve anything and its direction meanders at times. Regardless, the young cast are excellent, propelling the story by sheer unadulterated energy and charisma. Casablanca Beats is lively youthful inspiring stuff and the soundtrack is fantastic.

Words Shane O’Reilly


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