Before The Dying Of The Light


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Before The Dying Of The Light
"An experimental scrapbook of a film that, to an extent, makes up for what it lacks in context by its immersive evocation of an era." | Photo: Taskovski Films

Before The Dying Of The Light is an experimental scrapbook of a film that, to an extent, makes up for what it lacks in context by its immersive evocation of an era. The jumping off point for Ali Essafi's documentary is a 1974 Moroccan film, About Some Meaningless Events, directed by Mostafa Derkaoui. It played only once before being censored - although it has recently been restored - and here Derkaoui offers a consideration of how it came to be made, in voice-over.

He recalls his youth as something of a firebrand, leaving his family - an event recounted with a deep feeling of sorrow and regret here - in pursuit of what he imagined to be the greater political good, part of a clandestine movement that fought the oppression of King Hassan II. Derkaoui outlines the way that his hopes came up against the hard reality of the loneliness and isolation being a revolutionary can bring with it, an unmistakeable melancholy accompanying his recollections of wandering about Casablanca "in circles". Essafi, meanwhile, builds a broader picture of the country of the time, not just through footage shot by Derkaoui but also through street vox pops from the period, with people offering their views on what they want from cinema - with an emphasis on meaningful output. There's also a wealth of counterculture and arts magazine and graphic novel covers from the time, much of them showing a high level of self-interrogation of what the artists wanted to achieve sociopolitically with their work. News footage and snippets of other films shot in the country also go towards building the fuller picture, all accompanied by a jazz-inflected soundtrack.

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This is more a consideration of the emotional fabric of Seventies Morocco than the political comings and goings, something which some may find frustrating, particularly if you come to the film with no knowledge of the power backdrop in the country of the period. But the facts and figures-lite approach allows the feel of the period in question to dominate, with Derkaoui's reminiscences encapsulating both the hopefulness of the movement he was part of and the repercussions as repression weighed heavily on those involved - many of whom were subsequently incarcerated or, like Moonraker star Leila Shenna, simply disappeared. Best enjoyed as a mood piece, it's likely to inspire you to find out more about the era it reflects.

Reviewed on: 09 Apr 2021
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Experimental documentary considering the cultural and filmmaking landscape of mid-Seventies Morocco.

Director: Ali Essafi

Year: 2020

Runtime: 68 minutes


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