The movies I showed at the American Language Center in Fez during the last two weeks were far different than my first round of classic Academy Award Winners. I decided that since I was looking to spawn great conversations but that my audience was primarily Moroccan teens, I decided to address two issues that are prevalent in Moroccan society: Piracy (of goods) and Magic. To get at these subjects, I showed Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter.
Morocco has a long history of piracy, both the swashbuckling kind which used to take place from the Barbary Priate lairs in Sale to the modern kind where you see Moroccan kids walking around in pirated Diesel, Dolce and Gabbana, and other high end labels.
The students weren’t too interested in talking about piracy on the ocean though they did enjoy the film, however, they did want to talk about pirated goods. I asked how they could recognize if goods were real or pirated and the answer was the price. If it was expensive, it was real, if not, it was not. I tried to argue that maybe the pirates simply made some more expensive but they were sure that there was no difference in the quality. If it has a tag and is expensive, it is real, they assured me. If it doesn’t, it isn’t. We talked about DVDs and the fact that you can find the latest movies in Morocco for only a Euro each (10 dirhams) and they didn’t seem bothered by the piracy, in fact, they like it. I admit, that I do too.
For Harry Potter we had a large turnout. To my surprise though, the students weren’t too impressed by the film or the story. One of the big complaints was that it wasn’t very realistic. This is a strange complaint that I have heard from Moroccans quite a bit in the past when watching films that require a suspension of disbelief. In general, the Moroccan’s I’ve spoken with about films tend to like things that fit into their worldview. To that end, I started the discussion about magic in Morocco.
This was a great discussion. Morocco is a place steeped in magic and mystery. From worries about the evil eye to stories of Djinn and demons to neighborhood witches who dole out expensive potions to those who are seeking love or fortune.
When I asked about magic such as that in the film, some of the students pointed out that there was no mention of God in the film and thus there really couldn’t be any magic by ‘good guys’. They pointed out that the kind of magic Harry and his friends do is considered black magic and in Morocco is usually associated with those who have ‘sold their souls’ or are working with Djinn. Only one student among 20 said that he didn’t believe in magic and the rest laid into him mercilessly over the fact that magic is mentioned in the Quran. One student pointed out that the miracles of Moses were magic, but another said that since the miracles came from God this was not possible, i.e. magic is bad and God is good.
When I asked what a wizard or magician is most of the students said that today it is usually a man who charges women money to fix their relationship problems, inwardly I giggled as I thought that it sounds like a psychologist or shrink to me.
The amazing part to me, as always, in Morocco is that a people can be so incredibly pragmatic and realistic (that film was too fake) and at the same time so superstitious and ruled by supernatural belief (the lady down the street gave me the evil eye, there’s a Djinn in your drain, Aisha Kondeisha possesses him, don’t whistle indoors because it draws Djinn, and don’t imitate donkey sounds …)
Overall, they liked the film, but they just wished it would have been more realistic. I’m sure if Harry and his friends had simply been shown praying or reciting suraa, it would have made a very different impact.