Alchemiya values cinema that champions authenticity in representation and gives empowerment to the audience. That’s why this week we’re celebrating Majid, a heartfelt tale about a young orphan committed to tracing the last memories of his deceased parents in a bustling and harsh urban society. Tender and tear-jerking but with a lot of laughs and thoughtful observations, Majid is great Muslim family entertainment.
The film is a drama and adventure about ten year old orphan and skilled shoe-shiner, Majid, who has recently moved to the unfamiliar and hectic city of Mohammedia with his directionless and drunken but protective brother, Dris. Majid has recurring nightmares and begins to realise that he has forgotten what his deceased parents looked like. Although Majid is isolated, abandoned and alienated by the adults around him, he makes it his mission to retrace the last memories of his parents on the city streets of Morocco. He recruits his streetwise, straight-talking and cigarette-selling friend, Larbi and the charismatic youths embark on their ambitious journey.
Despite Majid’s seemingly sentimental premise, the Moroccan filmmaker and producer of Majid, Nassim Abbassi, successfully tells a story that covers the harsh realities of societal abuse and neglect while showing also the innocence and joy of adolescence. Abbassi spent 15 years attempting to develop and produce this masterful and thoughtful story for the silver screen. He intended for the film to be a representation of orphan life in urban societies and to ensure this realism he took the radical step of finding non-professional and first time actors Brahim Al Bakali and Lotfi Sabir to play Majid and Larbi respectively. Al Bakali was performing acrobatics with his siblings to raise money for his parents on the urban streets of Morocco when Abbassi discovered and hand-picked him to play the titular character. Abbassi then discovered Sabir at an orphanage and decided to cast him as Larbi. Despite their lack of acting experience, the pair absolutely dominate the screen and are equally enthusiastic, lively and bold.
This fascinating story of how Abbassi cast Al Bakali and Sabir links to an overarching theme in Majid: how friendship and community triumph over self-interest. Set in an urbanising Muslim-majority nation, the film shows how self-interest drives decision-making in commercially-driven and urban societies but it also unambiguously declares kindness and respect more valuable than money. Although self-interested behaviour is prominent, the underlying Islamic theme of community stands out and is ultimately what leads to resolution for our protagonist.
Majid and Larbi are self-sufficient, yet their physical nimbleness, childhood naivety and impoverishment subject them to manipulation, bullying and belittling by the adults who hinder their money-making schemes. The pair are constantly swindled by these adults who view the abused and the orphaned as delinquents. In reality, Majid and Larbi are defenceless youths navigating their survival in a big and confusing world.
By portraying self-driven societies through the children, Abbassi very cleverly emphasises the absurdity and humour in situations giving a sense of light-hearted entertainment throughout the film. Majid and Larbi are cheeky and daring as they involve themselves in ploys to outsmart the adults often through borderline slapstick comedy. Moreover, Larbi and Majid are relentlessly optimistic in their mission to track Majid’s memories of his parents which adds great strength and value to their survival in a difficult and dangerous world.
Majid is a must-watch tear-jerker that strives to celebrate hope, trust and determination. The film has been met with global praise and has deservedly won a series of accolades, such as the Best Screenplay Award at the Moroccan National Film Festival. Majid is full of humour, empathy and brightness and thoughtfully counteracts the bleakness of the merciless society represented.
It is a tender and joyful tale about a lost young boy challenging himself to seek his goals in a terrifying world. The film is full of playful laughs and thoughful narratives. Although Abbassi intended for this film to represent the harshness of contemporary life, he equally illuminates the underlying kindness and respect that people can have for one another.