Nabil Ayouch’s fictitious, but convincing look at how the strings of Islamic fanaticism were pulled to recruit the Casablanca suicide bombers of 2003 follows a handful of kids, soccer playing neighborhood toughs who will, over a decade, be groomed for religious martyrdom. Working from Mahi Binebine’s novel, Ayouch overloads on cause-and-effect incident (a murder, closeted gay guilt) when all he needs is the nearly complete social, cultural & educational vacuum shown at the heart of these lives, waiting to be filled. A better line of drama is found in the sibling rivalry between two of the recruits; one radicalized during a jail stint and jealous of the attention being given to his less worthy brother. (A modern Prodigal Son parable.) Unexpectedly, we see no organized religion of any sort in the lives of these young men or their families other than the fanatic extremists. Can this be the case? Yet another vacuum ready-made for religious mischief. Really more cult than religion, with manipulating Islamic extremist doctrinaires supplying the only purpose these young men will ever know. Fascinating, terrifying stuff, beautifully observed and intensely distressing.
DOUBLE-BILL: Ayouch’s latest, MUCH LOVED/’15, about prostitution in Morocco, is currently being suppressed locally after a very limited release. Watch for it; he’s a natural talent.