'Kanyamakan': Film Fra Sor Review

Courtesy of Films from the South Festival
Exotic settings only go so far in stale retro-adventure

Moroccan filmmakers try out their best American accent

Wearing its love of '80s Hollywood adventure on its sleeve, Morocco's Kanyamakan sets out to offer Raiders of the Lost Ark-style fare before the next round of Americans hears the call of sand dunes and vendor-packed bazaars. Unfortunately, writer-director Said C. Naciri adds little to the mix beyond his third- and fourth-hand genre tropes; instead of feeling rooted in its birthplace, the picture plays like a forgotten also-ran from the Stateside straight-to-VHS circuit. While local audiences may find it novel and emigres living in the West may be curious, it holds little export value beyond specialty bookings.

Veteran stuntman Mohamed Elachi makes a respectable if not exactly charismatic acting effort as Amir, a bank robber who double-crosses his partners and drives into the desert with them in hot pursuit. (One supposes he yelled "time out!" during the chase each time he had to stop for gas.) There he ventures into a forbidding, ancient walled city that his pursuers dare not enter. As he pushes through the local cantina's swinging doors, one can almost hear Obi-Wan Kenobi warn him about this wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Though this rogue will soon enough encounter a beauty he takes to calling "Princess," (Sarah Kazemy), the plot is less Star Wars than Western/samurai in nature: Amir has stumbled into a community held hostage by a nasty dude (Affif Ben Badra) who has imprisoned its leader (Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni) until he reveals the location of an ancient treasure. Weak villagers who have tried and failed to hire mercenaries to fight their battle now look to Amir — who's willing to help only if he gets back the loot he stole in the opening scenes.

Naciri recruits actors with plenty of stuntwork experience, but could have used more help staging their action scenes, which are sometimes incoherently staged and cut; gags borrowed from Raiders and other beloved movies grow tiresome quickly. Local settings help to some extent, though Vitor Rebelo's digital lensing is crisper in interiors than outdoors. Even viewers willing to go along with Naciri's borrowed plot devices will likely grow weary in the third act, where planning of a rescue mission goes on much too long, and find the tale's weirdly unresolved ending off-putting.

Production company: Corner Films

Cast: Mohamed Elachi, Sarah Kazemy, Affif Ben Badra, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni

Director-Screenwriter: Said C. Naciri

Producer: Mamoun Naciri

Director of photography: Vitor Rebelo

Editor: Mickael Dumontier

Music: Rachid Taha

Sales: Shoreline Entertainment

No rating, 105 minutes

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