A Muslim Childhood

A young boy's coming-of-age in 1950s Tangier blossoms into an elegy to-and ethnography of-the city's polyglot cultural tapestry, where Arab, Berber, European, and American influences merge. Inspired by Proust and the metropolitan “autobiographical fictions” of Charles Dickens, Smihi uses the adventures of his hero, the preteen Larbi Salmi, to lovingly re-create a Muslim childhood in Tangier, where religion and devotion go hand in hand with music, literature, and cinema, and where nationalism coexists with cosmopolitanism. Memories of French school, the music of Farid al-Atrash, circumcision, the Prophet, nationalism, a devout father, a devoted mother, and more merge into one epic retelling, with each moment set against the courtyards, fountains, tiled walls, and elegant archways of Tangiers itself. “This film is dedicated,” wrote Smihi, “to all those in the Arab world who cry out, ‘Long live our freedom, all of our freedoms.'”

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