Director: Juan Gautier
A blend of documentary and scripted drama, Spanish production Tanger Gool is a concerted effort to present a feel-good film about the concerns of Arab youth in the poor Bir Chifa part of Tangier. The film introduces two groups of young people: participants in a filmmaking course, and women’s football team the Strait Gazelles. The connection point is a Bir Chifa NGO and its staff – and in particular, new staffer Fátima, competently played by Soufia Issami.
One of the film’s two actors (the other being the charismatic Ahmed Younoussi, who plays himself), Issimi encounters the football side and commits to supporting them as a project for the NGO, although convincing the management is a challenge in itself. She dreams up the idea of a high profile football match against the Spanish women’s side, Atlético de Madrid Féminas, and pursues this goal with determination in the face of an initially less-than-enthusiastic response.
The documentary approach works well for the most part, although the central story isn’t enough to carry the movie by itself. The inclusion of the mostly male group of aspiring filmmakers allows writer and director Juan Gautier (who also co-produces with Andrea Gautier) to present a richer portrait of disadvantaged young Arabs pursuing their dreams. Football is the lynchpin – the filmmaking class produces a short documentary focusing on that year’s ‘El Clasico’ match between Real Madrid and Barcelona, and frequent cut-aways feature children and young people playing, and adults watching, the aptly-named ‘world’s game’.
Morocco’s place in the modern world is highlighted by its language. Most of the characters segue seamlessly, sometimes mid-sentence, between Arabic, Spanish, and French – underlining the recent history of Morocco and highlighting its position as a link between north and south. In fact, little separates Moroccan and Spanish youth, and football is employed effectively as a symbol of world unity.
Cinematography by Roberto Montero (who also worked with Gautier on the 2010 short Metropolis Ferry – an earlier exploration of the relationship between Morocco and Spain) captures the character and charisma of the Bir Chifa quarter, and contrasts gorgeous evening shots of the waterside township with daylight vision exposing the gritty reality of the busy, crowded streets.
Gautier has succeeded in making a very watchable movie about young Arabs that doesn’t patronise or glory in the harsh realities of life in Bir Chifa – though it doesn’t hide from them either. Instead, it reminds us that young people the world over – girls and boys, Muslims and Christians, Africans and Europeans – share much more than just a love of football.
Watch Tanger Gool on FilmDoo