November 29, 2021

Burning Casablanca (Zanka contact), d’Ismaël El Iraki

Selected at the Venice Film Festival where Khansa Batma won the Lion for Best Actress in the Orrizonti category, Burning Casablanca will be released on French screens on November 3, 2021. An explosive encounter between a fallen rock star and a street girl with a golden voice, passion quickly overtaken by their past demons, this film bathed in music strips away what still remained of clichés on urban Morocco.

Zanka Contactis the street fight in Moroccan slang. Shot in 35mm and selected in Venice, Ismaël El Iraki’s film, a graduate of the Fémis, wants to be inflamed, rock and crazy: it multiplies slow motion, effects and visions with the exploded 35mm camera of Benjamin Rufi. The film is intended to be “a letter of love and hate to Casa”, says the director. It effectively takes as a backdrop a torn city, pointing in the lineage of the Casanegra by Nour-Eddine Lakhmari the hardness of Casablanca on a pulsating rhythm and hellish music.

He confronts Rajae aka Nisrine, a prostitute (Khansa Batma, who lights up this film written for her [1]), and Larsen Snake, a drugged guitarist who had his fame (Ahmed Hammoud) and returns, destabilized, to the country with his snakeskin jacket and his guitar like Marlon Brando in The man with the snakeskin. They play indifference: ” my distress fuck you“. The pattern is known: he is rough but knows how to be tender, she ends up cracking. ” This is Casa here, Allah abandons you »: In the cruelty of urban relations, Rajae and Larsen, who both have a past to overcome, invent a romance in darija who mixes Arab, Amazigh and French, but a crooked pimp won’t let them go. From an underground nightclub where seventies rock triumphs to a hideout in the middle of the desert, the film turns towards the western.

« They knock to the ground, honest people, below the belt, contact Zanka. They don’t see you, they run over you »: In contact with Larsen (with the predestined name), Rajae discovers a golden voice and a repertoire as piercing as his experience. She finds in Larsen a man who is certainly broken but sensual and sensitive, far removed from the macho violence that had surrounded her until then.

This absurd violence, Ismaël El Iraki experienced it when he was in the Bataclan hall in Paris while the terrorists started shooting on November 13, 2015 during the Eagles of Death Metal concert. He managed to escape unscathed, but it is clear that this memory gives him the rage to live and strengthens his love of music. He himself says “live and breathe” rock n ‘roll “and wrote to Jesse Hugues, the singer of the EODM, his disgust for his reaction which accused the Arabs present that evening of complicity with the terrorists (” Your stupidity is dangerous ”[2]). His film, which readily looks at genre cinema to both illustrate and overcome this trauma, is not lacking in beauty even in its unleashed effects. Its features of light thus compensate for its infinite darkness.

[1] Daughter of Si Mohamed Batma and Saida Birouk, founders of Lemchaheb, a legendary group from the 70s / 80s, she is also the niece of Larbi Batma, charismatic leader of Nass L’ghiwane, and sister of Tarik Batma, the godfather of the merger with his album “Casablanca” in 1996. With her moving voice and her stage presence, she achieved a great success that that of her albums confirms.

[2] See the article in 13 Or de vie and the article by Marianne