In 1966, late great Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini went to a small Moroccan village to shoot his haunting piece of neo-realism “Oedipus Rex. A 19-year-old young man befriended the Italian hell-raiser who was responsible for a brief period of economic prosperity for the small villages.
Forty years later, the young Moroccan man is acting in a Moroccan film based and inspired by his own true story. The film is “Waiting for Pasolini, director Daoud Aoulad-Syad’s social satire competing in the festival’s main international competition.
Mohamed Majd takes on the role of Aoulad-Syad’s real life character, reinvented in the film as Thami, a kindhearted, hapless old man who, 40 years later, is repairing TV sets and works as an extra in foreign production films. When an Italian film crew arrives in his village to film a biblical story, Thami presumes his old pal Pasolini has returned and, unintentionally, misleads his village into believing that a thriving phase similar to the past one is ahead of them.
Thami is transformed quickly into some kind of national hero and the most sought-after member of his community. Thami eventually learns that his old pal has been dead for more than 30 years. His new-found fame prevents him from confronting his neighbors with the truth, choosing instead to instill them with a dosage of much-needed hope and faith.
“Pasolini borrows the formula of Luis García Berlanga’s 1953 classic Spanish film “Bienvenido Mister Marshall – about a quiet village that goes haywire when a group of American officials decide to grant its citizens substantial economic aid after an expected visit that never occurs – to present the ordinary aspirations of a group of marginalized Moroccans.
The comedy, which is offered in abundance via separate distant and witty situation-driven plotlines, is offered through a natural context that doesn’t deviate from the pervading realism of the film.
Aoulad-Syad refuses to follow the classic rules of comedy and exaggerate events that make up his story and the actions of his characters. Instead, “Pasolini looks and feels like a documentary where strong dramatic scenes rarely exist. Despite the audacity of this docu/cinematic approach, it wears down the dramatic buildup.
What’s unique about Aoulad-Syad’s film is his subject matter. Morocco is considered now the largest attraction for foreign productions in the Middle East. In fact, some of the biggest Hollywood productions in recent years – “Gladiator, “Alexander, “Kingdom of Heaven, “The Mummy – were shot in the village of Ouarzazate, where “Pasolini is set. The massive Christian set props that can be seen in the film were, in reality, left by an actual film crew shooting a movie in this village.
Aoulad-Syad captures the tiny details of filmmaking from the point of view these extras. Their modest homes, little dreams and limited skills are contrasted against the grandiosity of the productions they’re involved in. The palpable, pure innocence of the village inhabits, who haven’t been spoiled with the demanding requirements of technology or city life, is worlds apart from the true nature of the film business.
Both the villagers and Thami regard Pasolini as a Christ-like figure. A Messiah coming to save them from poverty and brings contentment into their lives.
That’s why, despite already learning the truth, Thami refuses to believe that Pasolini has passed away. The death of Pasolini symbolizes the death of hope. Truth, to people like Thami, is a luxury he can’t afford. The illusion of hope, no matter how feeble it is, evolves into the most momentous survival tactic for him and his neighbors.
“Waiting for Pasolini is a simple film that, unlike the majority of the Egyptian films screened so far, doesn’t attempt to shove its ideas down audiences throats. The film drags in several parts though. Both main and secondary conflicts don’t follow the natural progression of these types of stories, resulting in a slow build-up to the final poignant resolution.