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Soufia Issami (#110 of 2)

Tribeca Film Festival 2014 Sean Gullette’s Traitors

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Tribeca Film Festival 2014 Review: Traitors
Tribeca Film Festival 2014 Review: Traitors

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.

Los Angeles Film Festival 2012: On the Edge, P-047, Return to Burma, & The First Man

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Los Angeles Film Festival 2012: <em>On the Edge</em>, <em>P-047</em>, <em>Return to Burma</em>, & <em>The First Man</em>
Los Angeles Film Festival 2012: <em>On the Edge</em>, <em>P-047</em>, <em>Return to Burma</em>, & <em>The First Man</em>

In 1954, William Burroughs wrote that “Tangier is a vast overstocked market, everything for sale and no buyers.” Half a century later, circumstances in the city may have changed, but that same sentiment finds itself modulated by a cab driver as he tosses a portentous glance to Badia (Soufia Issami) and tells her that “Tangier only gives to foreigners.” The protagonist of Moroccan writer-director Leila Kilani’s On the Edge, Badia is a young woman who’s moved from Casablanca to Tangier to make a living. Hoping one day to land a job in the more prestigious factories of the city’s Free Zone, we see her at work in a less glamorous shrimp processing facility, where the sterile whitespace is marred by the orangish slime and grime of piles of shrimp shells. That kind of grime permeates the film and the dingy, noirish urban environments that Badia wends her way through.

Badia isn’t a personable or empathetic character, but as the driving force of the story, her behavior is a fascinating display. She seems continuously possessed by a hyperactive, twitchy nervousness, and her thoughts come across to us not via the steady drip of personal reflection, but in salvos, through internal and external monologues that serve as bursts of consciousness from a stormy mind. Everyone around her can sense the jagged edges of her personality; at work she’s told that she may have mastered all the parts of the process, but “you don’t fit in with the other girls.” She’s well aware of this, and doesn’t plan to stick around; she has other goals in mind. The web of intrigue that drives the film comes from the other side of her life; in the evenings she goes out with her friend, Imane (Mouna Bahmad), parties with strange men, and then steals from them. On one of these encounters they meet another pair of girls, the thievery escalates, and complications ensue inside and outside the Free Zone.