Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Tribeca ’14: Traitors
far, the Arab Spring has hardly trickled down at all for women. Malika and her
bandmates know this only too well. They are punk to the bone and have plenty to
say about their country’s corrupt patriarchal society, but they need cash to
express it. More specifically, they must cut a professional grade demo to keep
a prospective producer interested. There are ways to make quick money in
Tangier, but the drawbacks are considerable, as viewers will witness during
Sean Gullette’s Traitors (clip here), which screens
during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.
and her band, Traitors (with no “the”) might sound vaguely familiar to hip
readers, because it grew out of the similarly titled short film that played the
2011 New York Film Festival. Gullette reprises many scenes in the feature
version, but there is a new focus on Tangier’s increasing importance as an
international drug trafficking hub.
befitting any self-respecting punk rock diva, Malika has a strained
relationship with her parents, particularly her good for nothing father. Thanks
to his gambling debts, they are facing the very real possibility of eviction.
Plus, she must raise funds for her band’s studio time. Of course, she gets
fired from her French call center job around this time as well. However, she
has caught the eye of Samir, a drug dealer with a proposition. Although she
more or less knows better, she still accepts his offer to act as a drug mule. As
she talks to her traveling companion, the very pregnant Amal, Malika comes to
understand the magnitude of her mistake.
a strange way, Traitors the feature
suffers a bit in comparison with Traitors
the short. While the former segues into an impressively tight and tense crime
drama, its predecessor was powerful indictment of the everyday misogyny (and
even violence) faced by Moroccan women, particularly non-conformists like
Malika. Frankly, many views (especially those in the know) will want to see
more of the rest of Traitors and less of Samir’s thuggish associates.
both incarnations of Traitors prove
Chaimae Ben Acha is a future superstar poised to breakout globally. The camera
loves her and she can belt them out like Joan Jett in her prime. This is a
richly layered performance, bringing to life a deeply complex character. Malika
is unusually intelligent and creative, yet also seriously self-destructive.
Artists, you know.
Gullette (co-writer and star of Aronofsky’s Pi) maintains a brisk pace and a nervy
vibe, but there is no question this is Ben Acha’s show (although Mourade
Zeguendi has his moments as Samir, the complicated drug dealer). Traitors the feature is a good film, but
it leaves us wanting to see and hear more from Traitors the band. Maybe that is
all part of the master plan. Recommended with conviction for viewers with a
punk heart or an interest in women’s rights in North Africa and the Middle
East, Traitors screens Sunday (4/20),
Tuesday (4/22), Thursday (4/24), and Saturday (4/26) during this year’s Tribeca
Labels: Chaimae Ben Acha, Sean Gullette