The Blue Caftan is a 2022 Moroccan Arabic-language drama film directed by maryam touzani, and written by Touzani with the collaboration of Nabil Ayouch. The movie achieved the historic milestone of being the first Moroccan film ever to secure a place on the Oscars shortlist. This accolade was complemented by an impressive collection of over 45 awards from major international festivals. Notably, it clinched the jury prize at the prestigious Marrakech International Film Festival in 2022, sharing the honor with “Alma Viva.” The film garnered recognition at esteemed events such as the Seattle, Chicago, Angoulême, and Göteborg festivals.
Set in the ancient Moroccan town of Salé, “The Blue Caftan” unfolds the narrative of Mina and Halim, proprietors of a traditional clothing business specializing in hand-made caftans. Halim, a stoic and reserved figure, serves as the custodian of a fading artisanal tradition. However, he harbors a hidden facet of his identity as a closeted gay man engaging in secret encounters at the local hammam—a reality known, albeit unspoken, to his devoted but discontented wife, Mina. The delicate equilibrium of their relationship is disrupted with the arrival of Youssef, a perceptive young apprentice at their shop.
Directed by maryam touzani, “The Blue Caftan” unfolds as a subtle chamber piece, navigating the unspoken tensions among its central characters. Touzani adeptly minimizes psychosexual drama, choosing instead to immerse the film in an atmosphere of pervasive eroticism. Mundane activities, such as peeling tangerines or embroidering cloth, take on a charged significance, animated by an undercurrent of suppressed desires. Cinematographer Virginie Surdej captures these moments with a visual style reminiscent of Dutch still-life paintings, endowing the film's objects with a voluptuousness that mirrors the unexpressed yearnings of the characters.
The film's strength lies in the outstanding performances of its three leads—lubna azabal, saleh bakri, and newcomer ayoub missioui. maryam touzani skillfully stylizes their movements and actions, harmonizing with the measured pace and reserved atmosphere that defines her directorial vision in “The Blue Caftan.”
|Kristian Eidnes Andersen
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