In Review

Film review: Casablanca Beats

Earnest ‘hip-hop-flavoured’ coming-of-age drama 

This “hip-hop-flavoured coming-of-age drama” is about a group of Moroccan teenagers learning to question “the repressive attitudes and adult hypocrisies they see all around them”, said Alistair Harkness in The Scotsman. The film is set in an arts centre in a deprived suburb of Casablanca, where former rapper Anas (Anas Basbousi) has been employed to teach hip-hop to local youths. He’s an inspirational teacher, but his tough-love methods don’t go down well with the centre’s administrators. Director Nabil Ayouch then passes the mic to his charismatic pupils (played by non-professional actors), whom we see learning “to use rap to articulate who they are while negotiating complicated home lives, religious obligations and gender inequality”.

The Arabic title of this “empowering” film translates as “rise your voice”; while in France, the film is called Haut et fort, meaning “high and loud”, said Mark Kermode in The Observer. Both titles encapsulate the film’s “vibrant spirit”. Although it’s “clear from the outset” where the plot is heading, the film has an “infectious energy” that draws viewers into the lives of its characters. 

I’m afraid I found it hackneyed, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. It “largely consists of the same three scenes on rotation”: classroom squabbles about weighty issues; vignettes from the students’ personal lives; and writing and performance sessions, “in which you’d have to concede the results tend to be spirited rather than great”. Casablanca Beats “just about gets by on restless teenage energy and its bustle of winning young faces”, but it’s too “relentlessly perky”, earnest and simplistic to work.

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