Tribeca Film Review – TRAITORS: Engaging the Feminine Heroic

Traitors film review at Tribeca, plus a podcast interview with the director and producer below

By Christina Kotlar (doddleNEWS)

Lead singer of punk rock band, Traitors, Malika (Chaimae Ben Acha) emulates Joe Strummer of the Clash, “I’m so bored with Morocco but what can I do?” as she tries to find a way to change her world and escape the traditional life mapped out for women in Tangiers. In the opening scene, the all-girl band carry on raucously driving their van wildly through the urban Moroccan streets, loud music playing until finally stopping at a police checkpoint. Silent, subdued and smiling, the money saved for a recording session is given up as a bribe for the police to look the other way.

Malika is resolute in her goal to raise the money needed for recording sessions. Fired from a menial telemarketing job for her spunky, badass attitude, she returns to work in her father’s garage submitting to his remarks that not even the butcher would want to marry her– a 25 year old who wears jeans and has dirt under her fingernails. When a drug dealer needs his car fixed, Malika makes a deal and gets the job done. Her next attempt to collect money owed to her turns into a disasterous decision to feign a sexual favor for money ending in being beaten up. Saved by the drug dealer whose car she fixed, Malika is offered a job to drive another car into the country and then back to Tangiers.

Tangiers, is well known for international hashish trafficking. Drug lords use young women as their “mules” creating a class of controlled women often harshly instructing them to be respectful, friendly and smiling at the police checkpoints. Already having stepped out of bounds to get what she wants, Malika accepts the offer after she discovers eviction notices as well as her father’s gambling habits her mother has been hiding.

She is introduced to another young woman, Amal (Souffia Issami), totally opposite in life and entrenched in the drug world. She feels there is no way out of her situation. Malika rescues Amal, outfoxes the drug dealers, gets her money and a happy ending. BUT the film is more than that, indeed, much more when checked under the hood just as Malika does out of her father’s garage. Delving into a man’s world of power–cars, drugs, money, she is “abducted into the underworld” and into a situation that is completely over her head with the question put out by writer/director Sean Gullette– what will she do?

Traitors is Gullette’s debut feature. He is best known for co-writing and starring in Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, and is currently based in Tangiers, his wife’s hometown. At the Tribeca Film Festival screening, producer Audrey Rosenberg and Gullette expressed their gratitude and then he invoked a greeting in Moroccan Arabic or Darija language (not sure which one). From his deft touches in the film, he clearly has empathy and admiration for the exotic mystery and cultural beauty of his adopted city. While many would think this film is simply a portrait of middle-class life in urban Morocco or representing a restless generation in Tangiers, fails to recognize that it becomes a road widely traveled by the feminine heroic.

Sean Gullette creates a world in which our heroine finds her spiritual balance in the masculine realm, tapping into her feminine spirit of unfathomable depths, measuring her strength, testing her trust, courage, convictions, compassion and coming out from an angry punk introduction –a hard shelled crysalis– into fully blossoming emboldened self. Vulnerable at the start, Malika follows her heart, suffers through setbacks, realigns and fights for what she believes is right and comes up on top. Ready to take on her next adventure, I can’t wait to hear the cuts from the Traitors’ album. It should be titled: If You Are a Hammer, Strike. Not to miss.

Listen in on the Traitors podcast interview with Sean Gullette and Audrey Rosenberg.

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