Paradise is not here
by Vitor Pinto
- Nabil Ayouch's latest film is an impressive depiction of a Casablanca slum as a breeding ground for terrorism.
We were expecting a tough film, and that's exactly what we saw. In God's Horses [+see also:
interview: Nabil Ayouch
film profile], director Nabil Ayouch (Whatever Lola Wants) retraces the convincing and impressive tale of a group of young boys from the Sidi Moumen slum in Casablanca who end up becoming terrorists, or martyrs, as their spiritual mentors would call them. God's Horses takes no sides, and instead shows these boys as victims.
The screenplay, written by the director and Jamal Belmahi, shows the material and intellectual poverty to which the boys of this slum are exposed. They spend their days playing football and systematically fighting against the other team, they barely communicate with their families, and affirm their identity in streets and bars, places offering very few constructive references. Yachine and Hamid, convincingly played by Abdelhakim Rachid and Abdelilah Rachid (brothers on and off screen), are the main characters. Hamid, who is protective of his younger brother, is condemned to two years in prison. After he is released, Hamid seems more peaceful, but (Never trust appearances!) spends most of his time with a group of Islamist fundamentalists. Soon, he will convince Yachine and his adolescent friends to join the "brothers'" group. It's the first step in training these "godly heroes" to fight the Christian and Zionist enemy.
Spanning a period of nine years, from 1994 to 2003, the film covers the death of King Hassan II in 1999, the unavoidable events of 9/11, 2001, and finally the deadly Casablanca bomb attacks of May 16, 2003, whose main players we learn to know throughout the two hours of the film. Short scenes, fast-paced editing for some sequences, and a powerful soundtrack give God's Horses a force similar to that of an action movie, but without neglecting the intimate, social angle of the subject. The film portrays the contradictions and typical anxieties of adolescents. As for fanaticism, there is never a justification for it, but clues are given as to the power of fanatic groups, who, like the mafia in certain parts of Italy, protect people more than the supposedly competent authorities. Their power of persuasion may seem terrible, but it does not seem totally uncommon.
(Translated from French)