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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2012


In this historically and anthropologically oriented article, we situate the recent wave of Jewish-themed Moroccan films within the context of the liberalizing transformations and associated nationalist narratives promoted by the current Moroccan regime. Reflecting Mohammed VI's commitment to widening the space of civil society, the task of enacting these transformations and producing these narratives devolves increasingly to nonstate agents in the public sphere. Previously monopolized and managed more comprehensively by the state, the “Jewish Question”—that is, contestations over representations of Jews as authentic members of the Moroccan body politic—is now taken up in a range of public media less subject to direct government control. We demonstrate that the role of cinema in this process reflects the shifting relationship between state and civil society in the late postcolonial period. More specifically, we argue that the production, circulation, and reception of Jewish-themed films is diagnostic of the state's ability to open new spaces of public representation and debate that foster precisely those images of the state and nation promoted by the current regime in regional and global contexts.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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12 Reviews and commentaries related to the films have appeared across the political spectrum, from the Islamic-oriented newspaper Attajdid to liberal-leaning publications such as Tel-Quel and Le Journal Hebdomadaire. One of the main weblogs related to these films is

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16 A characteristic headline linking the two films reads, “Une Cause, deux films” (One Cause, Two Films). See Tel-Quel 301, 2008, (accessed 25 September 2009).

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22 Gad El Maleh is known for his one-man shows, including La vie normale (France, 2001) and L'autre c'est moi (France, 2006).

23 El Maleh has been featured in more than twenty-five films. Among these are Allouache, Merzak, Chouchou (France, 2003)Google Scholar and Carmel, Marco, Comme ton père (France, 2007)Google Scholar. Most recent is Coco (France, 2009), a critique of Moroccan Jewish bourgeois culture in France.

24 On Jewish novelists, see Dugas, Guy and Geesey, Patricia, “An Unknown Maghrebian Genre: Judeo-Maghrebian Literature of French Expression,” Research in African Literatures 23 (1992): 2132Google Scholar. Muslim novelists include Mustapha al-Bakkali, “al-Yahud Abtal al-Sinima al-Maghribiyya hadhihi al-Ayyam,”–4097–4756-A699–27FB3CD8ED8F.htm (accessed 25 September 2006).

25 See Rachid Nini, “Shuf Tshuf: al-Shasha wa-ma Waraʾaha,” al-Massae, 30 October 2007; also see “Une culture multiple: Rencontre à Tétouan pour la promotion de l'apport des musiciens juifs marocains au patrimoine culturel,” Le Matin, 3 June 2005; “Les Juifs du maroc ont su résister à la tentation de l'amnésie,” Le Matin, 5 February 2008.

26 See “Les Juifs marocain: Patriotisme, fidélité et attachement,” (accessed 25 November 2011); “Les Juifs marocains fêtent la féte du throne au maroc,” (accessed 25 November 2011).

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38 These films are not seen with historical suspicion; instead, as Michel de Certeau argues, they pretend to narrate a real history of Jewish–Muslim relations. de Certeau, Michel, Heterologies: Discourse on the Other (Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 1986)Google Scholar.

39 See Gottreich, Emily, The Mellah of Marrakesh: Jewish and Muslim Space in Morocco's Red City (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2007), 7879Google Scholar.

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41 It is worth remarking that the film's originally proposed title was Le bar, mon frère juif. The title of the released version emphasizes the film's Jewish themes in generic terms.

42 This idiom of Jews as protected people in the Moroccan polity is reinforced by the film's setting in Boujad, for this is a city in which Jews were famously under the protection of the local Sharifian lineage, the Sherqawa. See de Foucauld, Charles, Reconnaissance au Maroc 1883–1884 (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1998 [1888])Google Scholar. Dale, Eickelman, Moroccan Islam: Tradition and Society in a Pilgrimage Center (Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1976)Google Scholar.

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44 Kosansky, All Dear unto God.

45 Edwards, Marock in Morocco.

46 Many Moroccan films have used the theme of emigration and displacement. See, for example, Soleil du printemps (Morocco, 1969) and Lalla Chafia (Morocco, 1982).

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52 For more discussion on the sinking of the Pisces and the international pressure to grant Moroccan Jews permission to emigrate, see Agnès Bensimon, Hassan II et les Juifs; and Laskier, Michael, “Israeli–Moroccan Relations and the Arab–Israeli Conflict, 1977–2002,” Israel Affairs 10 (2004): 4173CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

53 See Carter, What Moroccan Cinema? The pertinent legislation can be found in Bulletin Officiel 1633, 78; Bulletin Officiel 3387, 28 September 1977.

54 On the history of the CCM, see Carter, What Moroccan Cinema?; Jaidi, Le Cinéma au Maroc, 26–31; and Dwyer, Beyond Casablanca.

55 Al-Massae, 24 December 2009.

56 Carter, What Moroccan Cinema?

57 Smith and Loudiy, Testing the Red Lines.

58 Al-Massae, 24 December 2009.

59 Attajdid, 15 May 2006.