By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, April 21, 2012
The short movie “The Projectionist” by Najat jellab starts with a dark scene and a sharp knock on the door. The interplay between day light, a dim tunnel light and darkness is the most captivating and consistent thing in jellab’s movie.
Though the director seems to have chosen to leave the viewers by themselves without providing many labels (character’s names) or directions, the viewer will undoubtedly recognize Jamma al Fnaa, Marrakesh’s ancestral square, the platform of all forms of folklore and entertainment.
Majid is the bespectacled man who sneaks outside the hotel out of the landlord’s sight. He rides on his motorbike trough the red alleys of Marrakesh where the sight of horse ridden carts is commonplace.
At the backdrop, Al Koutoubia mosque stands erect reminding the viewer of the imperial past of the Red city. In the movie, Jaame el Fnaa is not only a big square invaded by men with chained apes, water sellers and snake charmers. The large square becomes a disputed territory between an unnamed female entertainer played by Fadwa Taleb and the cigarette seller.
Anis Elkohen plays the role of Majid who works as a projectionist in an old movie theater that is still projecting Bruce Lee films. He slumbers into a deep silence when the theater manager announces the closure of the theater. Nonetheless, Majid still has the luxury to choose the last film to be screened before the official closure.
The director Najat Jellab displays dexterity in supporting the development of the plot. The choice of “The Last Time in Paris” staring Hollywood’s legend Elizabeth Taylor is not fortuitous. The term “last” is an echo of Majid’s own turmoil as he is cruelly banished from the magical world of cinema projection.
Since “The Projectionist” is a film about cinema, Jellab makes also a cursory reference to Ahmed Bounani’s film “Saraab” which is the Arabic word for mirage. The film invokes the idea of disillusionment of the projectionist in the digital age.
It is not a coincidence that the three films mentioned are all black and white. As a matter of fact, the black and white is an allegorical allusion to the past and its proceedings. But this past is regarded with nostalgia and grief as its termination is forced upon Majid with the closure of his workplace. The viewer may also wonder why Majid is interested only in oldies and not in the contemporary cinema.
Unfortunately, Elkohen’s performance fails short from embodying the estrangement and the grief of the main character. The absence of authenticity in the personification of Majid remains stark and disappointing throughout the movie.
Hopefully for Jellab, Abdellah Ferkous, though with a secondary role leaves a plausible impression with his flawless performance coupled with a linguistically credible dialogue.
Fadwa Taleb on the other hand delivers a genuine performance especially at the beginning of the film. But her talent is betrayed by a number of stylistic flaws at the level of the script. It is hard to imagine how a woman who can curse in rude language and turn suddenly to use words from classical Arabic.
Nonetheless, a special credit must be paid to Jellab and her technical staff for the astute use of light in the film. The light seems to be proactive and responsive to the main character’s mood as it alternates continuously with darkness.
The dim light is used to express Majid’s despair and lack of prospects, but most importantly the collapse of the estranged self in a recognizable world. As the projectionist feels ostracized from his society, he becomes a marginal person. But the viewer must not overlook the fact that the projectionist, being a backstage person in essence, cannot live in the bright light since the projection of films has to be wrapped in darkness with a slender ray of light.
The film touches upon the abrupt and epidemic closure of movie theaters in the era of digitalization. The causality between technology and underperforming movie theaters is established by the director without any hesitancy. The Projectionist has obviously a thesis that is not defended vehemently as one might expect. Yet, it is highlighted throughout the movie with a depressive overtone, that of the alienated artists in the world of overwhelming technology. Through her film, Najat Jellab laments the ill fate of movie theaters, the only place where the characters can have a full and dignified existence.
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