Monday, December 2, 2013


HERE is my description of the Moroccan short film by Ali Benkirane.
It is about Amal, a 12-year-old Moroccan girl and her life with her family in her village.
I am not sharing everything that I wrote – only the description for two main scenes. (I have completed describing everything though.)
The movie is called “Amal” and is 17 minutes long.
As said in my last post, the characters are speaking Moroccan Arabic (I think “Darija”) but the movie has subtitles in French.  

 Photo: Mama has told Amal that she will no longer be going to school.
It is early in the morning. The leaves rustle gently on the yew trees beside our house as the wind blows over the gentle slopes that extend for miles in all directions from our village.
I am already awake and dressed. I am playing in making shadows. I am holding my hands up beside the wall and seeing their shadows move fancily as I move my fingers and wrists.
I am happy and smiling, anticipating good things today – most importantly, the new things I will learn at school.
I look for the oval-shaped tin box near my bed and open it to take out my favourite play thing – a stethoscope.
As you can see, I am in my house in the village. There are 16 of us here. They include: My parents, my elder sister Fatiha, my brother Mahmed, one dog, four hens, one rooster, one cow, four sheep and me – Amal.
I am 12 years old and I love school and life.
It is my hope to become a doctor one day.
Now I will have to go and check Mahmed on the other side of the room, to see if he is still asleep. I will also have to check his heart to see if it is okay.
I go over to where he is, kneel down and place the tunable diaphragm on his chest and clip the eartip parts on my ears and listen.
After a few seconds, Mahmed stirs.
“Leave me in peace,” he says.  
“Wake up,” I say.
But he does not make an attempt to wake up.
“Wake up, you have to go to school,” I say.
But he does not get up.
“You go and dress for school,” he says dreamily.
“I have dressed already,” I say.
“You go,” he says loudly and tries to push me away.
“Ey, lazy head, wake up,” I shake him.
“Dress yourself, I will come,” he shouts.
Then Mama arrives.
“Enough of this or I will tell Papa,” she says.  

Both Mahmed and I are ready to go to school.
He looks more like a lively boy with his red jumper on and his cap on his head.
He will be tall when he grows up, I am sure of that. He stands at about 10cm above me – and is very skinny.
Mama hands him our lunch in a pink napkin – some bread.
“Take care of the lunch,” Mama tells him and we walk down the path away from home. Our bags are strapped to our backs.
Not many of the children from around here go to school. The school is also quite far.
Our valley has gentle, rolling hills with grass and few trees popping up here or there, mainly where houses are.
I think we have a beautiful valley. 
During the day it can be very hot and the glaze of the sun is something else.
Early in the mornings and in the afternoons it is quite cooler and are enjoyable to walk along the paths or small roads where wagons dragged by mules or cows can be seen.
After a while I am walking a few metres from him and reading a book. The book is about the heart.
Mahmed is walking behind me and complaining.
“Stop complaining too much and walk,” I say to him.

Both of us learn in the same room.
Our class is filled up with eager students, about 12 in all, eight boys and four girls, which included Mina, my friend, and me.
Our teacher, a male, a grandfather type, wears thick glasses. He has lost his hair on the top of his head and sports a beard with streaks of white and grey.
He is now asking us questions.
“Who has news on Nadia?” he asks.
“Mr, Mr, Mr, Mr,” everybody stands up or bending over their desk, screaming to give an answer.
The teacher picks Mina.
 “She is minding the sheep,” Mina stands up straight and says.
“You tell Nadia that if she does not come tomorrow, it is still worth coming to school,” the teacher says.
“Okay Sir,” she responds.
“Sit down then.”
He then tells us to open our textbooks and prepare for the lesson.
“CM1 and CM2, get out your homework,” he says. “Who can give the answer to question one?”
““Mr, Mr, Mr, Mr,” everybody stands up or bending over their desk, screaming to give an answer.

It is evening now. It is cool and nice.
Mum is washing my hair.
I sit quietly with my head between my hands while she talks.
Then she notices something.
“Wait. Who caused the bruise on your hands?” she asks.
“I fell,” I lied. (That bruise that was caused by Mahmed pushing me over when I held his hands to pull him to walk a bit faster in our walk home in the afternoon.) 
Mum lets out a sigh and then smiles.
“When I was small, I was like you. I always had bruises – on the legs, the hands, everywhere. My parents scolded me often,” she says.
“But the difference between you and me is that I did not go to school. By the grace of God, you, you can read, write and understand everything.”
I enjoy Mama’s talk. I smile.
“We are all proud of you. But, Amal, my small girl, starting tomorrow you will stay at home.
“Your sister has found a job in town and I do not have the same strength that I had before.”
My smile vanished.
I am sitting there and am shocked. I can feel tears welling up in my eyes but I am forcing myself not to cry.
“I hope God brings you a good husband who will take good care of you,” she says.
A little later, I am beside the house and hear Mahmed speaking with Papa as he went to check on the sheep in the field.
Mahmed is running alongside Papa begging: “Let her continue! Let her continue!”
“And your mother? Who will help her?” I hear Papa say. “Amal is a big girl and I am thinking about her future.”
Papa marches on.
The dog barks as if he has sighted a problem and that stops Mahmed’s begging for a few seconds.
Then Mahmed continues to beg – now a bit more loudly.
“Papa, please. Papa, please,” he shouts running behind Papa.
“Hey!” Papa shouts back angrily. “Stop whining like a sissy.”

The candle flickers in front of me. The night is quiet. I am staring at the candle.
I am on my bed on the hard floor.
Mahmed’s candle three metres away is also putting out light. His bed is also on the floor but he has his back towards me and I cannot see his face.
I know he is awake – and possibly thinking about the news and the response he received from Papa.
After a few minutes later, I get up from my bed, pick up the stethoscope which was beside me, walk over to his bed, kneel and place the instrument beside him, at his back.
Then I touch him on the shoulder and walk back to my bed.
I lie and look towards him.
Slowly he turns around and looks at the instrument beside him.
He grabs it and looks at it with a smile.
I feel like crying but I manage to smile.
As he fiddles with the stethoscope, I blow out the candle next to me bed and the darkness swallowed up my side of the room.
“Good night,” I say to Mahmed.
I do not know how he will make of it. I trust he will do well in school. I may not be able to make it now – now that I have to stay at home and help Mama.
It is for that reason that I passed my dream over to Mahmed. What I cannot be, I hope and trust he will be.
- Written originally for Pacific Indigenous Writers (Facebook group), Dec 2, 2013

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