ROCK THE CASBAH Tea And Sympathy

Rock The Casbah
Rock The Casbah

Directed by Lalia Marrakchi

Starring Morjana Alaoui, Omar Sharif

The theme of the family coming together to remember and mourn a father is becoming a fairly common plot point of late. Last month we saw it pop up as the basis for This Is Where I Leave You, which in turn was similar to last year’s August: Osage County. Rock The Casbah is the latest in this line, but with a Moroccan twist.

With the passing of her father, Sofia (Morjana Alaoui) is forced to return to Tangier to be with her family during their time of mourning. It is a reunion that she finds difficult – in part due to her Americanisation, in part due to the usual squabbling that siblings do, and in part due to the tragic history that drove her from her family initially. During the traditional three days of mourning Sofia must come to terms both with the past and numerous other family dramas – many of which stem directly from her father.

Three days can certainly be a busy time in the life (and afterlife) of a family, and director Lalia Marrakchi crams a lot of elements of family drama in here. However, in trying to do everything Rock The Casbah ends up doing nothing. With so many plot threads in play, the third act drifts steadily towards soap opera-styled histrionics. Many of these threads remain either unresolved, are abandoned completely, or wrapped up so neatly and quickly as to render any sense of tension or development meaningless. It is hard to see any character growth in this, and despite the film’s attempt to say otherwise, it feels as if the status quo has been maintained.

What it does do is offer an interesting, albeit flawed view of women in the Muslim world that we don’t often get to see. At times Rock The Casbah can be satirically amusing, gently poking fun at some hypocritical attitudes from both the East and West (Sofia’s career as an actress cast mostly as terrorists sees a wonderful lambasting of 24). In its quiet moments of sisterly bonding, its beautiful transitions between the days, and its more humorous jabs at cultural differences the film does offer a glimpse of what it could be, but this all too soon falls back into repetitions of family melodrama.

Which is a pity, as the quality of acting in these quiet moments, from all the cast, is generally good. The veteran members in particular really shine, although the casting of Omar Sharif is a bit of a dual-edged sword. On the one hand he is charming and likeable as the shade of the departed father (and erstwhile narrator), but it is often distracting, cutting against the image of the character given by the memory of the family.

Slow, overwrought, predictable, and a shade too ambitious in the amount of stories it wishes to tell, Rock The Casbah is a muddled piece that doesn’t quiet deliver.