One of the most important Arab filmmakers working today, Moumen Smihi is founding figure of the New Arab Cinema of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia).

Moumen Smihi: 44, or Tales of the Night

Introduction and Q&A for the film screening event at Tate Modern.

Moumen Smihi, 44, or Tales of the Night/ 44 ou les récits de la nuit 

Morocco 1981, 35mm, 110 mins

Shot in exceptionally beautiful widescreen images by Pierre Lhomme, 44, or Tales of the Night presents a fresco of Morocco’s 44 years of colonization as a protectorate of France. With the sweep of Miklos Jansco’s historical films and a mise-en-scène that owes much to Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (1963), 44 tries to capture the sumptuousness and misery of a religious family from Fes and an impoverished family in Chaouen, within a society fighting for its independence. Smihi draws equally on the traditions of the Arabian Nights tales and the picaresque narratives of James Joyce in order to present multiple points of view on a complex and mobile national history.

Film programme notes by Peter Limbrick

Moumen Smihi: A Muslim Childhood

Introduction and Q&A for the film screening event at Tate Modern.

Moumen Smihi, A Muslim Childhood / El Ayel: Le gosse de Tanger

Morocco 2005, 35mm, 83 min

This film, the first in what has become a semi-autobiographical trilogy for Smihi, follows the everyday experiences of Mohamed-Larbi Salmi against the changing Moroccan society. In 1950s Tangier, Larbi Salmi is a young, timid, pre-teen, boy, trying to make sense of the gentle religious upbringing of his father, the secular education offered him in French school, and his budding desires for the forbidden pleasures of the cinema and the women he meets through it. All the while the film offers a tapestry of fifties Tangier, an international zone marked by the influence of Arab, Berber, European and American histories. ‘This film is dedicated,’ Smihi has stated, ‘to all those in the Arab world who cry out, “long live our freedom, all of our freedoms.”’

Film programme notes by Peter Limbrick

Moumen Smihi: Moroccan Chronicles

Introduction and Q&A for the film screening event at Tate Modern.

One of the most important Arab filmmakers working today, Moumen Smihi is founding figure of the New Arab Cinema of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia).

Moumen Smihi, Moroccan Chronicles / Chroniques Marocaines

Morocco 1999, 35mm, 70 min

In this film, set in the ancient city of Fez, a working class mother, abandoned by her husband who has emigrated to Europe, tells three tales to her just-circumcised ten-year-old son. In the first, in which Smihi re-stages the Marrakech market scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), a monkey trainer makes children dance for the tourists. In the second, two lovers meet on the ramparts of Orson Welles’s Essaouira, the locations for Othello (1952), talk about their own forbidden love. And in the third, set in Smihi’s home town of Tangier, an old sailor dreams of vanquishing a sea monster: the Gibraltar ferry that connects Europe to Africa. In his deconstructed stories of Morocco, Smihi presents generations of masculinities stolen away by the various demands of economic necessity, religion, tradition and colonisation.

Film programme notes by Peter Limbrick. 

Moumen Smihi: The Sorrows of a Young Tangerian

 Introduction and Q&A for the film screening event at Tate Modern

Moumen Smihi, The Sorrows of a Young Tangerian / Tanjaoui: Peines de coeur et tourments du jeune Tanjaoui Larbi Salmi

Morocco 2012, 35mm, 95 min

Continuing the tales of Larbi Salmi, Tanjawi is set in the early years of Moroccan independence in the 1960s. The final part of the trilogy finds him full of revolutionary romanticism and western culture in his final years at high school. Salmi declares his atheism to his religious father, but hides from everyone his love for his English teacher, a beautiful young woman from Paris. Larbi gets involved in the Moroccan student political movement, and only a miracle saves him from the repressive crackdown that his friends must suffer. Shot in startling long takes, the film is Smihi’s boldest statement yet on religion and political histories in Morocco.

Film programme notes by Peter Limbrick

Deeply rooted in the unique culture of Tangier, a port city of Morocco, his work reflects on the cosmopolitan make-up of this cultural hub. His treatment of Moroccan history and reality draws upon the time Henri Matisse spent in Tangier between 1912–13 to the works of writers and poets such as Paul Bowles and Mohamed Choukri. Diverse cinematic traditions influence his work from the legacy of anti-colonial cinema and Egyptian musicals to films made in Morocco by Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock.