Local authorities classed short films “Bab Sebta” and “ A Place Under the Sun” as “dangerous for social peace in Tetouan.”
Essaouira – Organizers of the Tetouan Film Festival have cut two short films focusing on smuggling between Morocco and the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla, “Bab Sebta” and “A Place Under the Sun,” from the festival’s program.
The director of “Bab Sebta,” Randa Maroufi, announced the news on her Facebook page on March 5.
Maroufi said she received an email from the festival’s organizers who emphasized that local authorities took the decision, having classed the films as “dangerous for social peace in Tetouan.”
The “Bab Sebta” director added that she and the team who worked on the short film are “extremely disappointed.”
“Bab Sebta,” winner of the Tampere Film Festival 2020 Grand Prix, looks at the reality of life for Moroccans who depend on the informal smuggling that, until recently, dominated the local economy in the region of Tetouan.
The Moroccan government moved to clamp down on the practice to protect its own economy and avoid more fatalities caused by the mass movement of people at the borders.
In October 2019, Morocco suspended access to the Ceuta’s Tarajal II border, while the Melilla crossing border has been closed for more than 19 months.
Prior to the closure, Morocco’s government expressed serious concerns about the enclaves’ informal economies and their detrimental impact on the North African country’s own economy.
Last year, the general director of the Moroccan Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxation, Nabil Lakhdar, said that the value of products entering Morocco through Ceuta stood between MAD 6 billion (about €558 million) and MAD 8 billion annually (€744 million).
The practice does not only harm Morocco’s economy through a hemorrhage of tax and customs duties, it is also dangerous for the goods carriers, or human mules, themselves.
Congestion at the border has led to a number of deaths during crossings due to the high volume of people desperate to cross into the enclaves.
Spanish MPs and officials responded to the move from Morocco by accusing the country of putting pressure on the two enclaves, aiming to isolate and destroy their economies.
The ensuing economic crisis in Ceuta and Melilla has caused heightened tension with Morocco. The autonomous cities’ governments have called on Madrid to hit back at Morocco and take action to stop Rabat from “suffocating” the enclaves.
Both “Bab Sebta” and “A Place Under the Sun” aimed to highlight, through the medium of film, the reality of life for the Moroccans who travel every day to the borders carrying goods to sell.
“Bab Sebta,” or the Door to Ceuta, is a 19-minute sequence of vignettes reflecting the constant movement, desperation, and noise at the busy border crossing.
The Marseille International Film Festival program describes the short film as a “rigorous choreography of bodies, of individual and collective gestures” interspersed with police announcements and warnings against good trafficking.
The film festival, originally due to take place from March 21 to 28, has been postponed due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, officially called COVID-19.