Marrakech – Wait time is over. The impatience of youth, which is to be dissociated from haste and non rational decision, is not judged. It cannot be as it stick measures actions to be undertaken against what has already been achieved or failed to be achieved locally and elsewhere. The appreciation of relevance is presented as not romantic.It seems too be well aware of the limitations of the moment and of both the risks of acting and of missing the rare opportunity that has become available. The thread running through Egypt, Tunisia and Libya has thinned to a breaking point, or so it appeared. Apprehensions originating in one case are dismissed by the apparent success of the other.
The backdrop discourse is a mix of passion, primary nationalism, listlessness, frustrated energy pushed to implosion and the earnest desire to be part of a change process and very probably also of remembrances of notorious South and Central American revolutionaries. February 20 demonstrations break out. The “Rebellious Girl”, Laila, an unemployed trained computer specialist, runs and runs to escape the police. She is arrested and roughed in the police interrogation room. Attempts are made to humiliate her, to dissuade her, to break her in and have her report on her comrades and to disclose any secrets she might hold. Back home, she has the support of her father with whom she watches the events on T.V.
Time out. The moment does dot seem to have ripened as Laila and her comrades had thought it had. Perhaps, had they underestimated the resourcefulness of the adversary, the relatively wider margin of reaction it enjoys than Egypt and Tunisia and its much great capacity to adjust, to innovate, to absorb collective and popular ire and for timely response. Perhaps, did they overestimate the readiness and the political will for change of other parties they counted as opposition. Perhaps, their benchmarking was not that accurate and their analyses were, after all, at least partially romantic!
In any case, her place was elsewhere for the time. She ends up in Belgium as an unskilled hand picking up apples on a family held farm. She discovers a more direct type of exploitation. Not only is the salary low, work extenuating, hours long, living conditions and food below human standard but the financial scheme she was imported through is extremely expensive and she would have to toil for over a year to pay back for the service. Extra hours are not paid. No health insurance, no insurance against labor accidents, no benefits except those that could be exchanged against sexual services. Upon arrival to the space she will be using to sleep, she unfolds the Moroccan flag and hangs it.
Laila, the Rebellious Girl, had now new grounds to militate and she was not about to miss the opportunity. She denounces the abuses of the boss and convinces work mates to join a union and escalate the resistance. The boss, himself, like most medium size farmers in Europe is going through hard times. The promise of his neighbors to stand firm and not to give in for the workers on strike failed as the situation toughened. He is made to accept negotiations that ended with complying with the law and meeting the demands of the strikers. The Rebellious Girl has won a battle. There are other ones pending awaiting back home. She decides to go back leaving behind a team of empowered formerly abused group of immigrants. She also leaves a lover she had made friends with and whom she had transformed from slave driver to a militant for a just cause.
Jawad Rhalib, who directed this Morocco Belgian production, did not only tell a story although that, alone, would have made the movie worth competing in the Marrakech Film Festival. He did not produce a political pamphlet, either, although that would have met the expectation of many. He brought together images and rhythms of various paces and origins, traditions of different cultures, expectations of peoples undergoing diverse types of oppression, places and people as far away and distinct one from the other as their immediate concerns are to transform the very local and the essentially individual and specific into the meaningfully universal. Bold enough not to conceal the physical love engagement of two unmarried young people, one of whom of a traditional and profoundly modest culture, and chaste enough not to reveal all the inner pains the stressed farmer is going through, he depicts reality of emotions and that of impersonal economically imposed relations among people who could otherwise have been good friends.
“Rebellious Girl”, the movie, sets the scene by making sure the viewer understands that because the social and economic emancipation of Mankind is inseparable from the universal search for dignity and freedom, it is a global, permanent and comprehensive process. From the onset, the semantic framework unfolds as a form of political activism that is a total emotional and physical commitment the meaningful of which materializes only in as much as it is able to remove borders between nations, cultures, economic systems, production models and political regimes. Art, for one, transgresses the traditional definitions of categories and summons all forms of expression to reveal both beauty and its contrary, coherence and conflict, knowledge and lack of it, intelligence and its suppression, violence and peace, departure and return. Singing a National anthem, a heavily loaded symbol, with an obviously foreign accent by second or third generation young immigrants is a forerunner of the blur among frontiers of all kinds. Film making, and consequently film, it is announced, will achieve unity of purpose only through the wedding of music, lyrics, pictorial arts, sound, motion, language, silence and the human character in all its diversities and in the plurality of its personal and collective life experiences.