Director Nabil Ayouch drew on his own experience opening a youth cultural center in Casablanca for this story of a former rapper named Anas who takes a job teaching hip-hop in an underprivileged neighborhood. Despite differences in identity, religion and politics, Anas encourages his students to bond together and break free from the weight of restrictive traditions in order to follow their passion and express themselves through the arts. Featuring a dynamic ensemble of first-time actors, many of them students of the real-life cultural center where the film was shot, CASABLANCA BEATS is a vibrant and inspiring coming-of-age hip-hop musical with a decidedly feminist edge. Mixing intimate yet high stakes drama with infectious musical sequences, the film transports audiences to a lively and contemporary Casablanca, far from the clichés about the Arab world. Morocco’s official submission to the 94th Academy Awards® offers a refreshing dose of youthful inspiration alongside a powerful message about the liberating power of self-expression.
“On one level it’s a patchwork of popular cinematic tropes, combining the strength-through-music themes of films as diverse as 8 MILE and SCHOOL OF ROCK with the inspirational classroom formats of everything from BLACKBOARD JUNGLE to DEAD POETS SOCIETY. But there’s also a strong whiff of the discursive politics of Ken Loach’s LAND AND FREEDOM, mixed with the accessible rebellion of Jafar Panahi’s OFFSIDE or Deniz Gamze ERGÜVEN’S MUSTANG — a heady brew indeed.” —Mark Kermode, The Guardian “First by telling and then by showing, CASABLANCA BEATS argues that the power of personal expression can turn the world on its head. And for a good spell, the film does just that.” —Ben Croll, The Wrap “This is filmmaking as celebration and also intervention — in casting the center’s real attendees as fictionalized versions of themselves, Ayouch is not just telling the story of the notorious Casablanca neighborhood of Sidi Moumen that he, as a longtime resident of the city, knows so well. He is also making a difference within that community: With the film shot in fits and starts over the course of two years, Ayouch’s agenda in passionate support of institutions like this one and teachers like Anas (Anas Basbousi, also a rapper-turned-teacher in real life), is unmistakable.” —Jessica Kiang, Variety