Cannes Film Festival 2021: “Haut et Fort”, Nabil Ayouch’s powerful song of hope for Moroccan youth

It is “a child’s dream” directed by the Franco-Moroccan filmmaker Nabil Ayouch by presenting for the first time a film in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. At 52, he became the second Moroccan director to compete on the Croisette, after Abdelaziz Ramdani with Souls and rhythms in 1962. Thursday July 16, during his presentation at the Grand Théâtre Lumière with the film crew, his High and loud (Casablanca Beats in English) was given a long standing ovation, for nearly a quarter of an hour, and praised for the powerful message it delivers to Moroccan youth carried by hip-hop.

In Nabil Ayouch’s seventh feature film, we follow in our own role Anas Basbousi, a former rapper who becomes a teacher in a cultural center in Sidi Moumen, a disadvantaged suburb of Casablanca. In this difficult district, especially known for having been the stronghold of young radicalized suicide bombers who carried out attacks in Casablanca in 2003, he will take charge of a group of about fifteen teenagers steeped in hip-hop culture. Anas, initially cold and hard, will instill in them her secrets to transform a “mainstream” rap into a mode of expression that is both personal and universal. Each young person then unveils his own story, his wounds, his struggles, through compositions that will lead to a concert, not really to the taste of all the families in the neighborhood.

Between documentary and fiction, High and loud lingers in sequences on moments of S’s lifemail, Amina, Soufiane, Meriem or Abderrahim, who all have in common the desire to express their emotions and their sufferings in words, without mastering the codes of rap. Little by little, Anas will split the armor, become attached to each one and display smiles on his long closed and serious face. Thanks to his experience and a strong desire to change society, he will help these teenagers, curious and open to debate, to overcome the weight of traditions, religion and received ideas to bring out their own personality.

At first talkative in a first part built like a real documentary (which is reminiscent of Between the walls), the film practically turns into a musical comedy with colorful clips and catchy pieces, which made more than one spectator beat time during the screening at the Palais des Festivals. “This movie is the biggest rap piece of my whole career”, recognized the actor Anas Basbousi after the Cannes screening.

Always positive and looking to the future, High and loud never falls into utopia and regularly reminds us, through short poignant scenes, that freedom of expression is unfortunately not a universal achievement. It measures, with the help of a few political references, the way that remains to be covered in order to have music accepted as a tool to carry the voice of the most isolated: It is a musical film but also a social and political film, explains the director Nabil Ayouch after the screening of the film. Music is shown as a powerful weapon of social protest, a means of expression to accompany great changes. For having known the Morocco of the suburbs, I wanted to transcribe what I lived there: the absence of recognition, the feeling of feeling like a second-class citizen. “

Nice surprise from the Festival, in the running for the honors to be awarded on Saturday July 17 in the evening, High and loud likes to dream bigger under the Cannes lights. This African film, “the most autobiographical” of the filmmaker who grew up in the city of Sarcelles, in the Parisian suburbs, could well catch the eye of Spike Lee. The president of the jury of this 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival is known for his often focused filmography on the African-American community and more generally on major societal and identity themes that affect minorities.

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This superb cry from the heart of Moroccan youth, the energy of this group of young artists, the commitment of Anas Basbousi in this very real “Positive school” but also the musical compositions of Mike and Fabien Kourtzer correspond in any case to the values, personality and sensitivity of the American director, producer and actor. Elements that have not escaped Nabil Ayouch, even if he does not draw any plan on the comet: “For me, of course, it’s good news that Spike Lee is president of the jury. He’s someone I admire and respect a lot. But I have no idea what can happen, I’m just going to wait”. He still has a few hours to go before he finds out if his film will be able to take over from Chronicle of the years of embers, by the Algerian Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina (Palme d’Or in 1975), among the awards for African cinema in Cannes.

Gender: musical drama
Director : Nabil Ayouch
Actors : Anas Basbousi, Ismail Adouab, Meriem Nekkach, Zineb Boujemaa
Zineb Boujemaa
Country : Morocco
Duration : 1h41
Release in France : November 10, 2021
Distributer : Ad Vitam

Synopsis : Anas, a former rapper, is employed in a cultural center in a popular district of Casablanca. Encouraged by their new teacher, the young people will try to free themselves from the weight of certain traditions to live their passion and express themselves through hip hop culture.

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