44, or Tales of the Night

Smihi's most epic work illuminates forty-four years of Moroccan history through a series of visually striking tableaux and sketches, each recounting some aspect of life under French rule from 1912 to 1956, when Morocco gained independence. Similar to 1001 Nights or James Joyce's Ulysses (both cited as inspirations for the film), the stories here give birth to other tales and legends, offering up narrative fragments gathered from historical fact, myth, and everyday moments. Scenes of giggling European women carried on the backs of Arab laborers, or a black man in chains surrounded by lounging, contented colonialists, are interspersed with rebels moving through the hills with guns, or schoolchildren being told of a legend of resistance; at other moments the narrative pauses completely to present texts from European generals on warfare and colonization, or merely shots of Moroccan courtyards, fountains, or other architectural elements. For Variety, “44 has an original look that borders the avant-garde in its unsequential editing and narrative technique”; it stands as one of Smihi's most complex, furious, and visually stunning accomplishments.

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