Although Morocco didn’t make it to the top at the World Cup, here’s a chance to see a cinematic winner from Morocco: a nuanced and empathetic film that is Morocco’s entry on the 2023 Oscars shortlist in the International Feature Film category. The Arabic-language film has already garnered several awards at international festivals since its debut in Europe.
Join us on Sunday, January 8, 2023, at 10 a.m. for The Blue Caftan as Cinema Art Bethesda continues IN-PERSON screenings at the Landmark Bethesda Theater.
The Blue Caftan (Le Bleu du caftan) explores the relationship of a middle-aged tailor Halim (played by Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) and how their lives are turned upside down by the arrival of a handsome, talented young apprentice Youssef (Ayoub Messioui). Writer/Director Maryam Touzani is being hailed for her sensitive development of the characters and her tender focus on Mina as she realizes how much her husband cares for the young assistant. As one critic points out, Touzani’s style repeatedly smacks you with an unexpected “fierce emotional wallop.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s review (at the Cannes Film Festival) characterized The Blue Caftan as “a work of handcrafted beauty.”
“This is compelling storytelling by any standard, its supple rhythms hypnotic, its atmosphere potent and its prevailing hushed tone and intimate camerawork affording us the closest possible access to three characters who in turn are constantly studying one another,” said reviewer David Rooney.
The Blue Caftan invokes the traditions of the tailoring craft while facing the complex relationships of modern life. Although the couple’s marriage is strained, they show “desire and sadness in their eyes… [that] are heartbreaking and soulful,” says another critic. Mina and Halim run a traditional caftan store in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. In order to keep up with their demanding customers, they hire Youssef. The talented apprentice shows an utmost dedication in learning the art of embroidery and tailoring from Halim. Slowly Mina realizes how much her husband, who has been hiding his sexuality from his wife and the world, is moved by the presence of the young man. In the process, the film captures the dedication of craftsmen like Halim who seeks to preserve the disappearing traditions and methods.
The Blue Caftan has won awards at International Film Festivals including at Cannes, Athens, Vancouver, Lisbon, Haifa and Marrakech. At the New York City LGBT Film Festival, it snared the Grand Jury Prize.
The film runs 1 hour 58 minutes; dialog in Arabic with English subtitles.
Timely bonus film clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFqAUGDcB2o&t=2s
More Details about The Blue Caftan
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Review: Peter Debruge Variety “ A Closeted Tailor Confronts His Feelings in This Understated Moroccan Drama”
Review: Robert Daniels RogerEbert.com “The Blue Caftan, Triangle of Sadness, Small, Slow But Steady”
Review: Kristy Strouse Film Inquiry “Beautifully touching TIFF gem” “One of the best films of 2022.”