Goodbye Morocco: Doha Tribeca Review

Dangerous liaisons in contemporary North Africa.

Writer-director Nadir Moknèche’s superior multicultural drama weaves together a dark tangle of subplots about art theft, infidelity, kidnapping, murder and immigration.

Inspired by real events, this multi-layered suspense thriller is part murder mystery, part film noir and part dysfunctional love triangle. Set in contemporary Tangiers and Casablanca, it subtly interweaves a broad cast of characters from different ethnic, cultural and class backgrounds. Written and directed by the French-Algerian Nadir Moknèche, this Franco-Belgian co-production earned a special mention from the jury following its world premiere at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival earlier this week. Solid festival fare, it also has potential for crossover appeal in wider global markets among fans of cosmopolitan, socially conscious drama.

Lubna Azabal anchors a busy tangle of subplots as Dounia, a Moroccan woman who is supervising the building of a beachside villa with her Balkans-born Spanish lover Dimitri (Rasha Bukvic). When their excavations uncover an ancient Christian fresco, Dounia spots the chance to make an instant fortune with an illicit act of art smuggling, which would allow her to kidnap her young son from her estranged husband and flee Morocco for good.  However, her plan are threatened by the ominous disappearance of one of her illegal West African workers, Gabriel (Ralph Amoussou), as well as the thwarted romantic urges of her former childhood friend turned faithful employee Ali (Faouzi Bensaïdi).

Goodbye Morocco unravels in a non-linear style, a narrative striptease which gradually exposes the grim truth behind Gabriel’s fate and the complicity of the other characters in it. Along the way there is sexual intrigue, casual racism, bitter betrayal, a wry homage to Pedro Almodovar and a droll subplot about Nigerian workers exploiting European notions of African superstition to hike up their wages. The dramatic material remains plausible and naturalistic until the final act, which is slightly marred by a vengeful crime of passion with a high body count. Even Almodovar would not risk such a jarring gear-change into dark melodrama.

But for all its bumpy tonal shifts, Goodbye Morocco is a generally classy and timely piece of work. Studiously avoiding worthy culture-clash clichés, Moknèche’s polished thriller offers a sophisticated 21st century take on the enduring love-hate tensions  between post-colonial Europe, Africa and the Arab world.

Venue: Doha Tribeca Film Festival
Production companies: Blue Monday Productions, Need Productions
Cast: Lubna Azabal, Rasha Bukvic, Faouzi Bensaïdi, Ralph Amoussou, Grégory Gadebois,
Director: Nadir Moknèche
Writer: Nadir Moknèche 
Cinematographer Hélène Louvart 
Editors: Stéphanie Mahet, Olivier Gourlay 
Production Designer: Johann George 
Sales company: Blue Monday Productions
Rating TBC, 98 minutes