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heaven's doors

Heaven's Doors ('Abwab ul-Jinnah', 2006), the feature debut of the brothers Swel and Imad Noury, has been called "absurdly ambitious". Which it certainly is - creating a kind of Moroccan 'Amores Perros' with three interlocking story lines, 160 minutes long, all on a shoestring budget. And while it may have its flaws, the film makes up for it with a lot of visual flair and some remarkably compassionate storytelling.

Set in modern-day Casablanca, a bustling metropolis stylishly captured in washed-out colors by a restless camera, the film follows three people whose lives are all touched by a single act of violence. Ney is a young Moroccan sucked into a life of crime; Lisa an American widow reluctantly taking a young boy into her care; and Smail (played by the directors' father, filmmaker Hakim Noury) a middle-aged ex-convict out for revenge.

Heaven's Doors - 1

The real focus of the film, however, is on these people's family relations, and particularly between mothers and sons. Ney turns to crime to provide for his blind mother and his little sister; Lisa can't have children of her own, but suddenly finds herself in a mother role; and Smail's first stop after being released from prison is to visit his sick mother in the hospital.

As Ney's mother reminds her son, "Mothers hold the keys to paradise." In 'Heaven's Doors', mothers seem to provide the only unconditional relationship in a society full of uncertainty, crippled by poverty, crime and idle dreams of making it across the "Strait" to Europe.

Heaven's Doors - 2

Balancing the film's raw and hectic style, the three stories are introduced by titles, short parables (not sure what the source of these is) that lend it a poetic, contemplative air. They're intriguing enough to quote in full...

First story:

The mother approached her son. Crying, she softly caressed his face. She did not know what to say or do. Then she whispered in his ear: "My son, you can see the light in many different ways. But you can only be blind in one way."

Second story:

The sea was wild, the sky was grey. The child looked at her and said: "Why do some people die and others don't?" The woman laughed and the child understood. Time passed, the sea calmed and the sky turned blue. The woman looked at him and asked: "Why do some people love and others don't?" The child smiled, and the woman understood.

Third story:

The silence of the night makes loneliness a heavy burden. He opened his eyes and saw the Fate he kept running from. At that moment he had only one thought: resistance against the irreversibility of lost time.

(All roughly translated from Dutch dvd subtitles.)

For their second film, 'The Man Who Sold the World', the Noury brothers are adapting Dostoyevsky's short story, 'A Weak Heart' - should be one to look out for...

Update: The poems / parables are not quotes but were written by Swel Noury, as he was kind enough to point out. And for more info on 'The Man Who Sold the World' see its Facebook page.


the voices of marrakesh

In 1952 Elias Canetti , best known for his novel ' Auto-da-Fé ' and his study ' Crowds and Power ', visited Marrakesh with a British film company. (Would be interesting to know which film this was, but haven't been able to find … Read the full post »

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