The Arab Spring has many faces. Malika (a charismatic Chaimae Ben Acha), the lead singer of the eponymous all-girl punk rock band at the center of writer-director Sean Gullette’s debut feature, Traitors, is a representative of the restless generation in the Moroccan port city of Tangiers. Inspired by the Clash hit, the Traitors practice a song with the refrain, “I’m so bored with Morocco, but what can I do?” To Malika’s father, his daughter is a misfit because she’s 25 years old and unmarried. She also doesn’t seem very interested in holding on to her job at an international call center. Her only interest, it seems, is to perform with her band, and her only goal is to raise enough money so the group can rent a recording studio to cut a demo.
The Boston-born Gullette, best known for co-writing and starring in Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, is currently based in Tangiers, his wife’s hometown, and he clearly has empathy for his adopted city. In the first half of the film he reveals a skillful eye (and ear) for the quotidian in a portrait of middle-class life in urban Morocco and how an energetic young generation is effected by their familial relations. Take Malika, whose mother makes sure her two daughters get their breakfast before she heads out to clean apartments. Her father owns a garage, but seems to spend most of his time in coffee shops. So when the girl learns that her father’s business is failing, and that he’s neglected his family’s finances as well, she feels she must help keep the roof above her family’s heads in addition to trying to raise cash for her band.