A young rapper teaches teens in a rough part of town how to express themselves through rhyme and verse in Morocco’s Oscar submission. Anas’s students are made up of young people playing fictionalised versions of themselves who, like their characters, attend an arts centre, which director Nabil Ayouch helped set up.

Music fans will appreciate the ways in which Casablanca Beats treats it as a medium for multiple ends: catharsis, therapy, social commentary. Female students are frustrated by the way their bodies are commented on no matter what they do or how they dress. Male students are torn between tradition and modernity. Everyone has an opinion on customs related to being part of the Muslim faith.

Generational and ideological differences clash, as youth and artistry come up against conservative communities unwelcoming of change. In an increasingly connected world, in which polarised sides have many platforms to air their views, young people are surrounded by loud voices which get in the way of finding their own. Here, music is a way of making sense of and cutting through the noise, and so too is a space in the community where teenagers get to be teenagers without judgement. They debate, they disagree, but they learn how to do so respectfully, before going on to make more music together.

Anas too is an interesting figure, who seems fulfilled by the presence of rap in his life, but is living out of his car. The film never suggests rap music will be a way out of difficult situations, but that it helps those with struggles cope.

That it offers no answers to big questions is to its credit, making Casablanca Beats an ode to expression itself, especially for those least likely to be able to safely access art spaces, showcasing the difference it makes when young people feel able to use their voices.



CAST: Anas Basbousi, Ismail Adouab, Zineb Boujemaa

DIRECTOR: Nabil Ayouch

WRITERS: Nabil Ayouch, Maryam Touzani

SYNOPSIS: Anas, a former rapper, is employed in a cultural centre. Encouraged by their new teacher, the students will try to free themselves from the weight of traditions to live their passion and express themselves through hip hop culture.