Benjelloun’s films are films that say more than they suggest, that point an accusing finger more than they cast an eye, would have said critic Serge Daney. Not that all is said in the dialogue, but because the whole film is built around a will for commitment. As in Jugement d’une Femme, that illustrated the movement that tried to give women their rights back, and in La Chambre Noire that dealt with repression during the dark years to show how they pushed the youth in the Islamists’ arms, he tries to shake up his country, not without taking the corresponding risks. Où vas-tu Moshé ? is in perfect continuity with this double approach participating in the Moroccan people’s reconciliation with its History but in facing it and trying to improve mentalities to ward off the fundamentalist menace.
Benjelloun therefore combines a realist documentary approach and easily comprehensible metaphors. From the tradition of storytelling he used to listen to in souks as a child, he draws a clear and sensitive way of telling a story weaving fiction and history, multiplying anecdotes and digressions in a coherent but mostly meaningful whole. Où vas-tu Moshé ? is then an entertaining and committed film that, though it is set in 1963, when Jews left the country in mass to go mainly in Israel (where the Sephardic Jews inflated the unemployment rate) reproduces this historical moment depicted in detail in a wider framework: that of awareness that the loss of its diversity makes a society’s regression possible.
Clearly, according to Benjalloum, the Jews’ exodus was not only a tragic brain drain but it deeply unbalanced the country. Furthermore, and he is making a bold statement here, it gave Israel executives who, in accessing responsibilities, have since turned against the Arabs, during the recent Lebanon war in particular.
In the film, the only bar in the quiet small town of Bejjad is threatened by the Jews’ exodus while the municipality would like it to enforce the ban against selling alcohol. A law actually makes it a matter of religion, as the Islamic precept cannot be imposed on believers of other confessions. Schlomo is the only Jew who refuses to leave the motherland he treasures and the experiences he has lived there. The bar is named « Chez Schlomo » then and will stand against the threats of closure: it is in preserving its diversity that a country can live in freedom.
The some 300 000 Jews living in Morocco in 1945 did not feel supported after their protector’s death, Mohammed V. Supported by Zionist organizations that orchestrated the populating of Israel, they left their homeland on the sly. From a very human perspective, Benjelloun closely depicts a community that gradually convinces itself to take the offer to leave, torn as it is by it, and rushes into the buses, secretly chartered during the night; leaving behind the sick ones, deviants and madmen, as was the case on Roben Island for prospective immigrants to the United States who did not fit the « good migrant » profile. Benjelloun takes the character of a madman who thinks he is a general to make him play with prescience a triumphing Moshé Dayan.
Intimate scenes alternate with epic crescendos, reinforced by a chromo image and an insisting music: the arsenal of the viewer’s emotional implication is deployed for human tragedy to be better felt, which gives strength to the discourse tinged with humor concerning the liberty killing dangers risked if we remain strictly among ourselves. It all adds up if you are willing to stick with it, if you share the director’s conviction. Moreover, the film may well advance public Moroccan debate concerning a dark and ill-assumed period in the country’s History, without forgetting the complicit references to those who defend their liberty to be and think. It is certainly where it finds both its purpose and necessity.
Translated by Sutarni Riesenmey///Article N° : 6922