From September 24th to October 1st, I traveled to Morocco as part of the Film Forward program. I had never been to Northern Africa or to an Arabic country so I was very excited about the trip. I left New York on Saturday night and after changing planes in Paris arrived in Rabat the capitol of Morocco on Sunday afternoon. As soon as I saw signs in Arabic at the airport I was psyched.
We had Monday as a day of rest and a day to use to get over jet lag before we launched into an ambitious travel and screening schedule. Although we used the day to do some exploring in the extensive market in Rabat. The other filmmaker traveling with me on the program was Cherien Dabis, her film Amreeka is a narrative about a Palestinian woman and her son adjusting to life in America. On Monday evening we left Rabat for Tangiers, and thus began our whirlwind tour of (at least part of) Morocco. We visited Tangiers, Tetouan, Rabat and Casablanca over the next four days, screening and talking as we went.
It was Great, Incredible, Wondrous!
We met a couple in Tangiers, Yto Barrada and Sean Gullette who have started a repertory theater, Cinematheque de Tanger, in an old historic movie house that was just beautiful. That night I screened Freedom Riders in another historic building, the American Legation Museum, I believe it was the first building owned by the United States on foreign soil. We had a great screening attended by native Moroccans, U.S. and French ex-Pats.
Film Forward group with students and professors from University Abdelmalek Essadi, Tetouan, Morocco. Photo by Meredith Lavitt.
The questions were great, many were the same as in the U.S., but many were completely different. One Moroccan man asked if Black People in the U.S. still needed to protest now that Obama was president, and if we still needed people like the Freedom Riders. Of course my answer was yes, that many African Americans lives have not been affected by Obama’s presidency or the civil rights movement.
My next screening was at the University Abdelmalek Essadi in Tetouan. There the students were supposed to have seen the film, but for a variety of reasons that had not happened. So we rigged up a system so that they could see the first half hour, and then we had a really lively discussion of the film and filmmaking techniques. There were also several prominent Moroccan filmmakers there (Jilali Ferhati, Cherif Tribak and Jamal Souissi), who after joined us for lunch with the University professors where the conversation continued.
One filmmaker promised to meet me in New York for lunch when his film shows at the Museum Of Modern Art later this month. I hope to cart him up to Harlem.
It was a great trip and I’m really sad that my time with the Film Forward program is ending. Met great people, had great screenings, have wonderful memories.