Winner of the Best Director prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir uses handmade figurines and models to uncover layers of personal and political history.
The Mother of All Lies
Asmae El Moudir
Winner of the Best Director award in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard and co-recipient of the festival’s Best Documentary Prize, Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir employs an inventive mode of storytelling to uncover layers of personal and political history. Much of her family’s past is veiled in secrecy. In search of answers, she enlists the building talents of her father, Mohamed, to construct a scale model of their Casablanca street. Around this playful space, El Moudir assembles family and friends for an epic session of group therapy that veers between comedy and tragedy.
In her early thirties, El Moudir is grappling to understand the mentalities of her mother, Ouardia, and grandmother, Zahra. For years, she has been troubled that no photos exist of her childhood. Her mother can produce just one, but El Moudir has doubts that it’s even her in the photo. Her grandmother, a fiercely intimidating presence, holds a strong position against photography, even as she allows El Moudir to film her.
One of the pivotal moments in the neighbourhood’s history that El Moudir plays out in the model took place before she was born. In June 1981, citizens held a strike to protest rising food prices in what became known as the Bread Riots. The military cracked down with violent reprisals and arrests. One of the many victims was a 12-year-old local girl, Fatima. The chapter has been erased from history books, but the traumas are still deeply felt. El Moudir’s innovative path of exploration through this and other stories demonstrates the power of art to confront hidden memories.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: violence