The East Wind

El Chergui is the work we have all been waiting for,” cried Cahiers du Cinema in 1976 of Moumen Smihi's debut feature, one of Moroccan and Arab cinema's most groundbreaking films. In mid-1950s Tangier, on the cusp of Moroccan independence, a woman turns to magic to keep her husband from taking a second, much younger wife. Meanwhile, life in the medina goes on, amid the contradictions of colonialism, religion, patriarchy, and resistance, all while the east wind continues to howl. One of the most experimental features in Arab cinema, El Chergui ruptures narrative through destabilizing shots, cut-away techniques, and a complex music soundtrack, all filtered through austere, haunting black-and-white imagery. A Moroccan Black God, White Devil, the film opened up a new front for Third World Cinema, using film like a weapon to dissect and critique national history and society. “For El Chergui,” notes Smihi, “my initial motivation was to try to discern through cinema certain aspects of Moroccan society at a moment in its history.”

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