“Le Bleu du caftan”: gay love in the medina of Salé
THE OPINION OF THE “WORLD” – NOT TO BE MISSED
A militant spirit and the grace of a fairy. This could be defined as Maryam Touzani, given the two fiction feature films that her filmography now has. The first, Adam, released in 2020, had already revealed it to us in this way, through a delicate film on the status of women in Morocco and the stigma cast on young girls who, outside marriage, find themselves pregnant. His second film, The blue of the caftan (selected at Cannes in the Un certain regard section and crowned with the International Critics’ Prize, in 2022), emphasizes the same approach, sensitive and slow, of the filmmaker vis-à-vis another complex subject: homosexuality. Which is considered, in the Moroccan penal code, as a crime punishable by six months to three years in prison.
Born in Tangier, settled for a long time in Casablanca with her husband, the filmmaker Nabil Ayouch (God’s horses2013; Much Loved2015 ; Raid, 2018, in which she was both co-screenwriter and actress), Maryam Touzani, 42, is committed to opening minds and changing mentalities, particularly with regard to women’s rights. In her work as a writer, actress and director, she has kept this commitment, without shoving or talking loudly. On the contrary, working with infinite modesty, she keeps herself as close as possible to people, taking care never to speak abruptly, respecting the contradictions and silences of those she listens to. This applies to his documentaries as well as to his fiction, short and feature films.
An intimate filmmaker, Maryam Touzani thus most often restricts her field of observation to a few square meters of a home, a shop where traditional embroidered outfits are made. In Adam, these two places formed only one, subordinating the two heroines to a camera that forced them to get closer, to understand each other and to be reborn. In The blue of the caftan, the house and the shop appear this time distinctly, separated by a distance that the staging gradually takes on the task of narrowing, thus operating, by form, the reconciliation, even the reunion of the two spaces, private and social.
The store is located in the medina of Salé, Morocco. It belongs to Halim (Saleh Bakri) and Mina (Lubna Azabal), married for a long time, united in respect and an uneventful life, in which everyone has their place. He, master craftsman (maalem, in Arabic), hand-cuts and embroiders the caftans in the back room. She praises with conviction their quality in the shop and does not hesitate to reframe the bourgeois clientele who rail against the slowness of the deadlines. For such pieces, you have to know how to wait. They are not done in a day, unlike those that are most commonly done by machine. Just watch the human hand lingering, weighing, caressing the fabric, embroidering and measuring, at each point, the symmetry of the patterns, to be convinced of the meticulousness required by the craft.
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