Ali Zaoua, Prince of the Streets, is a film by Nabil Ayouch, and is one of the few (if not the only) films on the list from the country of Morocco. It takes place in Casablanca, though it is a very different city than the famous film with the same title. Viewers of Slumdog Millionaire will see some things in common with the setting of this one, though not necessarily the same mood or feeling. As for what that mood and feeling is, in regards to Ali Zaoua, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what to make of it.
The film deals with the titular Ali, and his small group of friends, as they trawl the streets of Casablanca trying to make their way in their lives. Being children, and homeless street urchins at that, their lives are mostly a happy fantasy world; Ali, in particular, has aspirations of becoming a seaman, and finding his way to a magical island with two suns where he can live the rest of his days in happiness. Unfortunately, he and his friends have broken from their main gang, led by an older boy named Dib, and in an altercation with them one day, Ali is killed. The rest of the film is the attempts by his friends to give him a proper burial, to make amends to his mother, and to help the old fisherman who was going to give Ali the sea life he’d always wanted. The film gets in the heads of the children characters, and the whole film feels like a fantasy, even as it is still often brutally real. It also occasionally dabbles in animation, I suppose to add an additional layer of child-like imagination to the world. The child actors are all each very convincing, and they largely made the film the easy watch that it ended up being.
I don’t really know what I was expecting with Ali Zaoua. After the first fifteen minutes or so, I guess I was expecting an insightful look into the level that spirituality plays in these young kids of the street, but I didn’t get that. After that, I think I was expecting a personal odyssey to fulfill the life and wishes that Ali himself was unable to before he died, but I don’t think I got that either. Honestly, I don’t really know what I got. It was decent, in an “I was easily able to sit through this” kind of way, but it didn’t really offer anything, aside from a look into the lives of these Casablancan youths. Maybe that was enough for the film, and its intended audience, but I guess it wasn’t enough for me. I don’t really see a problem with people giving this one a chance, but at the same time, I don’t really know what you may get out of it, since I didn’t really get anything out of it myself. Still, it’s short, and it’s a pretty simple watch, so there’s not a whole lot to lose.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10