Tonight, Cannes Classics, the festival program devoted to the discovery or rediscovery of heritage films of the past, gave the place of honor to Trances (1981), a film by Ahmed El Maanouni. It tells the story of how a group of musicians caused a social revolution in Morocco in the early 1970s. By choosing a form of expression which was a radical departure from the invasive "languid Oriental sound," they became the spokesmen for a generation of rebellious youth. The screening of this film in a fully restored print took place in the presence of director Martin Scorsese, ambassador of the brand new World Cinema Foundation. This non-profit organization aims to provide funding for the restoration and distribution of films from all over the world, especially Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Central Europe.
Martin Scorsese declared: “It was in 1981 while I was editing a film, The King of Comedy. We worked at night so no one would call us on the telephone and I would have television on, and one channel in New York at the time, around 2 or 3 in the morning, was showing a film called Trances. It repeated all night and it repeated many nights. And it had commercials in it, but it didn’t matter. So I became passionate about this music that I heard and I saw also the way the film was made, the concert that was photographed and the effect of the music on the audience at the concert. I tracked down the music and eventually it became my inspiration for many of the designs and construction of my film The Last Temptation of Christ. The music was also the basis for Peter Gabriel’s music in the film. I would play the music for most of the musicians I knew, Robbie Robertson of The Band…What you see here is a mix of the poetry, the music and the theatre that goes way back to the roots of the Moroccan culture. And I think the group was singing damnation: their people, their beliefs, their sufferings and their prayers all came through their singing. And I think the film is beautifully made by Ahmed El Maanouni; it’s been an obsession of mine since 1981 and that is why we are inaugurating the Foundation with Trances.”
Ahmed El Maanouni also took the microphone and said a few words: “I would like to thank Martin Scorsese from the bottom of my heart, who, for me is someone who came to me from another planet. We make low-budget films in Morocco and that is why this is like a fairy tale for me. On behalf of all Moroccan filmmakers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I would also like to thank the Festival for opening its doors to us. If we carry a torch of hope today, it is because Martin Scorsese has opened the dialogue and proved that we can be interested in each other’s culture, especially in places where there is so much conflict and strife. With Trances, I simply showed a respectful glimpse of an enormously talented group of musicians who represent so much to the young Moroccans, the whole continent in fact. I had the freedom to bring this project to fruition and I’m proud of the team that worked on it. Thank you, World Cinema Foundation, for your great ideas.”
Photo copyright AFP