Moroccan Cinema Highlights #1: About Some Meaningless Events (1974)


Mostafa Derkaoui’s 1974 film, About Some Meaningless Events, was shot between January and April 1974, and upon its release later that year, it was banned and shelved until 2019, almost fifty years after its release, and what a shame that is. During the reign of King Hassan II, where Morocco was supposed to be “a country that is rooted in tradition but open to modernity”, About Some Meaningless Events unintentionally achieved more than it set out to, and aside from glaringly showing Morocco for what it was, a country not in peace with the two extremes, but stuck in-between them in a mortal game of tug-of-war, a chaotic state made even more so by the political protests throughout the country, started by the students movement in 1965, and reaching a zenith in the early 1970’s with the two attempted coups, the film showed just how important cinema can be in guiding the people, something that would have been very dangerous for the government back then. It is in this context that About Some Meaningless Events should be considered, the film equivalent of a ticking bomb, disarmed instantly.

For readers who have not seen the film, this introduction will perhaps make you think that About Some Meaningless Events dove relentlessly into politics and criticized, disapproved and disparaged all it saw, when in fact, what the film did was completely different. Director Mostafa Derkaoui, alongside his film crew, walk around the streets, bars and cafes of Casablanca and simply do interviews with random people, and the question is one, “what do you think Moroccan cinema should talk about?” Some say that it should have an educational mission, some say it should be a cinema of the people and deal with their daily problems and concerns, some say that Moroccan cinema does not even exist, while others simply say that they are too busy to go to the movies. This meta-questioning of the form and mission of cinema is halted when one of the interviewees commits a crime, and the filmmakers are presented with a dilemma, but also, with a plot.

The fact that the filmmakers are suddenly presented with a plot does not take them off-track from their docu-fiction, cinema verité style, and instead of embracing the plot in what they deem to be “classical cinema fashion” , they embark on absurdist debates and conversations about what cinema is and should be, and how an event should be adapted in a way that makes an impact. In their attempt to depict the young man’s crime is a show of the inability of cinema to truly get to the core of stories like these, and the film ends with that note: a camera and a microphone is the exact difference between a doer and a watcher, and no matter what the latter does, he will never truly understand. About Some Meaningless Events is a film about what film should be, a match for classics like Fellini's Eight and a Half and Kiarostami's Close-Up, and a piece of meta-cinema that should not be missed. You can find it on the permanent section of Mubi. 


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