- Women, Religion, and Sexuality in Contemporary Moroccan FilmUnveiling the Veiled in ﺤﺟاﺏ ﺍﺁﺤﺏ Hijab al-Hob (Veils of Love, 2009)
The contemporary film industry in Morocco reflects the sociopolitical and cultural transitions that have taken place in the country since 1999. In the last decade, notably since the death of King Hassan II in July 1999, which symbolically ended Les Années de plomb (the Lead Years, c. 1963–1999) and the most repressive era in Morocco’s modern history, the country has engaged with the globalized world, becoming more open and democratic. Contemporary sociopolitical and cultural transitions in “the New Morocco” (Le Nouveau Maroc, as it has come to be known since the debut of the new millennium) have been contextualized in film, documentaries, and television series. As I have argued elsewhere in my work on the cultural production of Morocco, since the end of the Lead Years the country has sought to democratize and modernize on all levels of society: sociocultural, judicial, and political.1 In some respects, the monarchy of King Mohamed VI has attempted to turn the page on the past of his father’s repressive rule in order to shape a society that is forward thinking and inclusive. The cultural production of the county has reflected the issues and debates of the new era, particularly in the film and television industries. Both have benefited from the more open political climate freed of censure and this, in turn, has influenced themes and technical innovations on the screen. Visual media best depict both the dystopian and utopian realms of Morocco’s modernity, encouraging debate about the negatives and positives [End Page 106] of the hyperglobal capitalist systems of the twenty-first century. Additionally, and most importantly, Moroccan modernity in the age of globalization has particularly impacted women and their enfranchisement in society in both positive and negative ways.
Encouraged by increased democratic transparency fostered by young King Mohammed VI (popularly known as “M6,” pronounced “emm sees” in French), men and women filmmakers explore the sociocultural and political debates of their country; a nation, like others across the Arab world, undergoing huge sociocultural and political transitions. Certainly in this period now known as the “Arab Spring,” Morocco is also witnessing upheaval, particularly among its younger generations. Like the rest of the world, 65 percent of Morocco’s population is under the age of thirty-five. Young people are more educated than their parents, more secular, and more driven by capitalism and the global market than older generations. Filmmaker Aziz Salmy’s 2009 film, Hijab al-Hob (Veils of Love), encapsulates the culture wars of the New Morocco, articulating the overarching angst shared by many Moroccans, both men and women, who find themselves caught up in the throes of globalization.
Film, Cinema, and Changing Mores in Contemporary Morocco
The themes taken up in films allow audiences to explore some of today’s most pressing questions and issues in Moroccan society; notably the changing mores of young people, sexuality, and women’s emancipation from taboos and stifling cultural and religious values. Some of the most thought-provoking films made in the last decade, directed by both male and female directors working in Morocco, include: Jugement d’une femme (2000, Judgment of a Woman, Hassan Benjelloun), Les Yeux secs (2002, Dry Eyes, Narjis Nejjar), Marock (2005, Leila Marrakchi), Deux Femmes sur la route (2007, Two Women on the Road, Farida Bourquia), Casanegra (2008, Nourredine Lakhmari), Les Jardins de Samira (2008, Samira’s Gardens, Latif Lahlou), Amours Voilées (2009, Veils of Love, Aziz Salmy), Les Ailes de l’amour (2011, Love in the Medina, Abdelhaï Laraki), and the 2006 TV police crime drama series El Kadia.2 This series features beautiful inspector Hajjami. She is a character who represents the overarching theme that women’s roles and place within urban culture are rooted in a burgeoning brand of Western-capitalist modernism as found particularly in Casablanca. In her lab, Hajjami dissects bodies and probes the severed members of cadavers in order to solve crimes for La Police Scientifique in the same manner as American crime drama heroines—Temperance Brennan of Bones, Megan Hunt of Body of...