Marrakech - The story is extremely complex. Synthesizing it cannot be simple. It starts with the death of a hundred-year old man. Apparently senile, his words are raw and partake in those of Greek heralds, Shakespearean witches, commentaries of the Wasteland or the memories of someone coming out right of Paradise Lost. He is heard before he is seen, his voice espousing those of the animals that coexist with humans in the same living environment. In the short while before he dropped dead, he says it all. Fraud, treachery, corruption, greed and lust underpin the seemingly simple life of the village. One is not even sure the little school kids in their pretty uniforms are that innocent. Every single word he utters, whether addressed to an individual or to the whole community, is an accusation, the revelation of some deviance or a curse. The privilege of old age and of the dementia that goes with it is the right to disclose what everyone else strives to conceal and not to be heard.
Marrakech – The story is extremely complex. Synthesizing it cannot be simple. It starts with the death of a hundred-year old man. Apparently senile, his words are raw and partake in those of Greek heralds, Shakespearean witches, commentaries of the Wasteland or the memories of someone coming out right of Paradise Lost. He is heard before he is seen, his voice espousing those of the animals that coexist with humans in the same living environment. In the short while before he dropped dead, he says it all. Fraud, treachery, corruption, greed and lust underpin the seemingly simple life of the village. One is not even sure the little school kids in their pretty uniforms are that innocent. Every single word he utters, whether addressed to an individual or to the whole community, is an accusation, the revelation of some deviance or a curse. The privilege of old age and of the dementia that goes with it is the right to disclose what everyone else strives to conceal and not to be heard.
The death of the old man, should not necessarily mean, however, the end of an era nor the beginning of a new one. In any case, his terminal fall is witnessed only by goats, hens and roosters. We learn he was a notorious character. For his son, the second generation in the movie, his death is “no big deal”. He does not see any use in attending his funeral nor in complying to the most sacred traditions.
Technology is failing, the water pump has broken down, the repairman is no hurry, water is short, the forest is being ransacked, the river emptied of its sand, peaceful herders in transhumance are robbed of their sheep, heavy drinking among youth and the elderly alike, cheating, stealing one’s father’s money and losing it in fixed cards games, forging one’s father’s death certificate to secure inheritance in his lifetime, the holiest traditions are not respected. These are all cross generational behaviors.
The scenes of the funeral are true studies of an anthropological phenomenon. In addition to the visual and sound support of the various stages of the preparation of the dead, his ablutions, dressing him up, seating him in a chair decorated with flowers, spraying him with fire starters, the procession and the fanfare accompanying it, setting the fire and watching the dead burn, the final search in the ashes for remnants of skull and rib bones to be kept in the home, every step and act is seen through several eyes and assessed through different sets of concerns, interests, values and criteria.
The elder son who is supposed to set the fire and the preside over the ceremony for it be holy and to honor his father does not only not care about it, but rejects the whole tradition with sarcasm and derision. He is always in the move, roaming barefoot, half drunk, throughout the territory of the tribe. He does not hesitate to steal money from the pocket of a farmer working hard in the field, for a Tiger, the drink he runs on.
The land is in desolation and an advanced state of waste and deterioration. The forest is overgrazed, the trees are cut rand the river is deprived of its sand bed.
The scale of the Thihit tradition is decided according to a combination of astrological conditions and the relative wealth of the dead. The Grand son, acting in lieu of his father who does not care about tradition, is ordered to feed five hundred people and serve them meat. The latter condition is reason enough to convince everyone who hears about the event to make the effort.
Conveyance of the assets, including land, of the dead person to the only lawful inheritor is at jeopardy. The grandson has been convinced that his uncles, all qualifies crooks, are plotting to usurp him of his rightful inheritance as their brother shows no interest in it.
Counseled by the scoundrel of the village, he decides to forge a death certificate for his father to enter into property of the land and sell it to a rich man from the city. The condition which the administrative authority demands is that the father disappears and is not seen in the whereabouts of the village. The son convinces the father to go on the trip he had always wanted to make and proposes a big amount of money to fund it. The father is made to swear on the head of his grandson not to return to the village before a long time. To buy his father’s disappearance, he loans the amount of the bribe from a real shark – 25000 rupees – at a high interest rate for a five day period which he planned the land to have been sold.
Short on Tiger, the father breaks his word and gets off the bus and misses the opportunity to get far away from the village. While roaming as he is used to, he runs into some nomad families in transhumance living in complete coherence and concord driving their sheep and goats throughout the country according to seasons and availability of grass. They accept his invitation to join them, shares their tea and introduces them to Tiger. In the night, he tells them the story of his life. One day he had caught his father making love to the wife he had made him marry. Only the woman was aware of it. Neither she nor he had ever told the father. She jumped in the village well with her two children. He managed to save only one of the sons whom he raises to manhood and then left the village to wander most of the time aimlessly leaving behind wealth and notoriety. Everyone hang on his words and sympathized with him. He closed the narration throwing doubt on the the authenticity of the events that could be, he dropped in, either true or just a dream!
One day, he offers to buy dinner to the families that have adopted him. Did he not have a lot of money and did they not show him a lot of generosity? To the food, he added Tiger and other spirits. The night turned into a chaotic party with a lot of drinking and dancing. Everyone was knocked off and dropped dead drunk into a heavy sleep. The grand son who had lost the money of the three sheep for his grandfather’s ThiThi getting drunk and playing cards, sneaked in with his acolytes and stole three sheep from the sleeping nomads.
In the morning, the families have what seems to be their first internal conflict. A fight almost broke out that was about to break up the centuries old bonds that had maintained them together. The old man, the roamer, intervened and distributed the money left with him, an which was meant to get him very far away from his village, to the three patriarchs of the nomads. Two accepted the money. One did not arguing the old man did not have to pay for the deeds of someone else. Little did they all know. The tribe decided the place was not safe anymore and the theft was an indicator they were not welcome. They packed and hit the road in search of another grazing land.
Meanwhile, two parallel stories are unfolding. The grand son who had stolen the sheep had fallen in love with the adolescent daughter of one of the patriarchs. He kept at her until her feelings leaned for him, too. The second story was the sale process of the land.
The Thithi ceremony has traditionally to be led by the eldest son, who had now disappeared and was living with the nomads in the road driving their herds for safer lands. The villagers, who were not aware of the deal the son had sealed with his father, insisted he is found to lead the ceremony and honor his father. The son had usurped his father’s position, bought forged official documents including his father’s death certificate and loaned a huge amount of money he expected to pay back upon the sale of the land. Moral deprivation is but another fact of everyday life, it seems.
The ceremony was interrupted by two events. The herd of the nomads passing close by and the unexpected arrival of the buyer of the land who showed up unexpectedly with his associates one day ahead of the appointment to finalize the sale. The secret of the father is disclosed as a kid found out he was hiding among the sheep. The villagers bring him back to the celebration on their shoulders. The fraud is revealed and the deal with the rich man is broken. The celebration goes on. The son had drawn the daughter of the patriarch to a barn and made love to her under the sight of goats, sheep and cows their heavy breathing mixing with that of the young adolescents. The girl sits silent as the boy draws up his pants. The feelings are not the same. One has the feeling of a winner the other of one who has just lost something precious, “find me and marry” she commands as she leaves. The goats witness it all.
The ceremony that was about to be ruined is saved by the visitors pressing for the food and meat they had been invited for. The patriarchs and their families join the feast, eating their own sheep unknowingly. A night of “story telling” follows.
Raam Reddy, the Director of the film, managed to reconcile the rigor of anthropological description, sociological analysis and psychological investigation with the rare skill of an inventive story teller. While he stands as a narrator and holds his judgment as much as it can be done, he creates for his characters moments to judge both each other and their living conditions avoiding himself, thus, the risk of misleading the viewer or manipulating his attitudes and feelings. He leaves it to viewers to find out for themselves what to do with the cruelty of some of the actions he brings to them from a real world. His task is limited to revealing the processes through which the perversion of authenticity, the profanation of purity and the corruption of simplicity are affecting the world he has chosen to explore the forces influencing universal values and making human Destiny !