Stars: Anas Basbousi, Ismail Adouab, Zineb Boujemaa, Meryem Nekkach.
What this flawed Morocco-set picture musical drama lacks in originality it just about makes up for with youthful energy. Anas (Basbousi) a former rapper, now reduced to living out of his car, gets a job as a teacher working at a cultural centre on the outskirts of Casablanca. Encouraged by their new mentor, depicted here as an enigmatic hip-hop Lone Ranger riding into town to school the kids in the way of rap, the kids gradually learn to express themselves and defy traditions. Babousi is bland presence here, but the kids, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, are great, and their performances genuinely rousing. While cinematographers Amine Messadi and Virginie Surdej’s rendering of the flash and grit of Casablanca life is impressive, the picture often feels more ‘Kids from Fame’ than the streetwise hip-hop document it fancies itself as, and scenes of Anas receiving pushback from fellow teachers and parents feel a little too rote. One over-earnest sequence which a devout Muslim female student dresses down her authoritarian brother via the medium of rap is a bit naff, and the conclusion is a sentimental misstep. Much better are the more naturalistic scenes featuring the pupils as they joke and squabble over their lives and experiences.
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