Movie: One of the lessons we learn in most Hollywood movies is that with few exceptions, everything works out in the end. I'm told the reasoning is that happy endings sell more popcorn. Enter the world of independent films such as those released by companies such as Film Movement. In their March release, they show us the nasty world of Morocco (remember Casablanca?) where street children scrape out a living while being victimized by adults, other children, and even the system itself. If this sounds familiar, it's probably because other films, including the excellent Salaam Bombay, deal with similar subject matter. Child exploitation is very much on the rise around the world and perhaps seeing real life victims (the stars of this movie were street children just as the previously mentioned movie were) cast in the roles they were born to play might make a difference.
In Ali Zaoua, the story gets rough really quick. The movie is titled after a young lad who dies early on in the movie. Determined to give him a decent burial, a few of his friends move Heaven and Earth to do right by him. Most of the adults, including Ali's hooker mother, don't care much about the glue-sniffing losers they see the children to be. Among the dreams of a better life, and tidbits of animation, we get to see how they all prevail, within limitations. Here's what the box says: "Nabil Ayouch's Ali Zaoua is not only an extraordinary film, it is an accomplishment. The young people in the film are not professional actors, but real street kids ("chemkaras") recruited from the streets of modern-day Casablanca. Blending cinematic fiction and reality, Ayouch patiently evokes natural and beguiling performances from the first time actors, where just as in the film; the street has become their home and their family."
Picture: The picture was presented in 2.35:1 ratio Anamorphic Widescreen and looked very detailed with a multitude of textures. There was obviously a lot of thought that went into the composition of the movie on a technical basis and I noticed very few problems that weren't related to conscious decisions on the part of Director Ayouch.
Sound: The audio was in Arabic with English subtitles in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. For the most part, this aspect of the movie was also very clear and crisp.
Extras: A short film, The Architecture of Reassurance by Mike Mills, which explored the life of children in a much different setting than the feature. It was a bit less accessible than the feature to me but the underlying themes were interesting. Trailers to the feature and Marion Bridge, biographies of some of the cast and the Director of Ali Zaoua, and a paper insert of the movie closed out the extras here.
Final Thoughts: For all the diminished hopes of the children involved with this movie and the stark contrast between the background they suffered through and what I'm used to, I thought the movie was immensely enjoyable. There was little or no attempt to portray the leads as completely sympathetic and that only added to the reality of the message. The larger message, for me at least, concerned the disposable nature of lives in society and even in a rich country like ours, it's a problem. I highly recommend this one to fans of foreign cinema and I'll be looking for future efforts by this director (and company).