L7sla, the documentary by Sonia Terrab which destigmatizes the young people...

L7sla, the documentary by Sonia Terrab which destigmatizes the young people...
L7sla, the documentary by Sonia Terrab which destigmatizes the young people...

What gave you the idea for this documentary, the second you are making for 2M?

The starting point of this documentary is the title I gave it, that of the song Al Hasla by Lemchaheb, a hit from the 1970s. I wanted to pay tribute to this group, to Mohamed Batma and to Sousdi, who were visionary poets. Everything they wrote then applies to today. I never feel so Moroccan as when I listen to Lemchaheb, which awakens incredible emotions in me.

So I was listening to this song on repeat and I said to myself that I am going to go to the Hay, to meet its young people to give them a voice in the present, through this song from the past. Hay Mohammadi is very suitable for this; it is a mythical district known to Moroccans and I therefore wanted to ask these young people this question. “Where have all those lions from the past gone?” is also a way of asking what happened so that in the 1970s, the Hay Mohammadi was a breeding ground for talents, from which major artists, intellectuals and sportsmen have come and today, even though there are still some beautiful things happening culturally, it is falling apart.

It is also a way of asking the question in all of Morocco, where the Hay becomes a symbol and a metaphor for the situation in the country. The idea is above all to go and meet this marginalized, disadvantaged youth, overlooked and that we do not want to see or who sometimes frighten us.

I also have a personal story with the one I filmed. In 2012, I was walking in the street and I was attacked by hooligans on the day of a Raja-Wydad match. I will always remember their dead gaze. It didn’t traumatize me, but rather made me want to understand what makes it come to this, what causes this anger and this flight.

Finally spending a whole year with this youth allowed me to better understand things, but also to humanize these people, to restore their dignity, to listen to them. We find their raw words in the film, this anger, rage, solidarity, the routine made of h’rig, drugs. But we also find hope and faith in a better tomorrow. We tell ourselves that there is a problem that we must face in the face and that we must no longer continue to close our eyes.

We talk a lot about history in this documentary. Contrary to what it might suggest, this is not a nostalgic film but rather anchored in the present, with unseen scenes of debates on today’s youth. What does this say about the dynamics of neighborhoods in Morocco?

The past in this documentary is a pretext, but the film is deeply rooted in the issues of the present, working-class neighborhoods and youth. There are scenes of debates in the street, where the people of Hay talk about this youth and everything happens naturally. After a year of shooting, we collect a lot of images, we try to capture reality. Still, the film is mostly male because I filmed in the street. Public space belongs to boys and not to girls.

The boys invest this street, discuss, watch games together, so I captured this energy, this spirit and that’s what’s important in a documentary: you have to take the time to follow people, to create, to to have this temporality to have this evolution in the film so that it is not miserable. It is not a film of young people who are sorry for their fate. It shows young people as they are today and we want to believe in them.

It is all the more important that it passes on 2M and I am very proud of it. I wasn’t interested in making a film for foreign channels or festivals. My priority was for it to go on 2M, for it to enter Moroccan homes and for everyone to see this youth and for them to feel listened to and valued. I thank 2M for this, Ali’N’Productions, Nabil Ayouch and Amine Benjelloune. I also thank Barry, son of the neighborhood who brought me into the neighborhood where I spent three months before starting to film these young people. We got to know each other, they took me with them to the stadium and when I started filming things just felt more natural because the trust was there. They opened their hearts, their neighborhood to me, they gave me access to their lives and they were very sincere.

In this documentary, we also see young people who were unaccompanied minors in Europe, a subject that comes up a lot in France today. They came back, testify, had their BAC and want to be useful for their families. Is this an example of hope?

I think the strength to believe is the only choice we have left, especially when we are young. One day or another, a trigger calls for not wasting your energy on drugs, unemployment or migration and to invest it in working and building with what you have. It takes a lot of courage on the part of these young people, but there are some who are fighting today and want to stand out.

I did not aim from the start to show this aspect, but it came out like that, after a year of filming where it was possible to follow those who have evolved over the months, to organic way. Capturing this also allows you to detach yourself from this miserability and this victimization, by showing people who are fighting. We must stop stigmatizing them and that is the whole point of the film.

Can this also serve as a reflection for political leaders, who defend more of a security approach in the management of minors in difficulty?

Completely. This is why I am very proud that the film is broadcast on 2M, a public television. This allows decision-makers and politicians to become aware of this reality, especially since today – it breaks my heart to say it – with the health crisis, the situation of these young people is even worse than when I was I filmed in 2019. Today, all their areas of freedom have been restricted, so I dare not imagine their daily life.

If this film manages to reach decision-makers and understand that the security approach is not the solution but that culture is the solution, we can build things with this youth. It’s a big project and in general the artists, of which I am a part, are there to ask questions and not to answer or find solutions.

How do you see the aftermath of this film? Do you think you can still do work with the young people you filmed?

I hope they will be very happy to see each other on screen. I hope that this film will please them and that it will touch them, that the people of Hay Mohammadi will be proud to see their neighborhood on screen. I also hope that this documentary will continue to have a life. If there was no health crisis linked to the pandemic of the new coronavirus, I would have made a big projection in the neighborhood. But I remain optimistic …

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