‘Starve your Dog’ Review by Yamina Mechri – Safar Film Festival 2016

16 September '16

‘Starve your Dog’ is screening on 18 September 2016 at 6 pm at ICA, London, as part of Safar Film Festival. You can read more information and buy your tickets here

‘Starve your Dog’, Morocco, 2015, directed by Hicham Lasri.

Review by Yamina Mechri

STARVE YOUR DOG Safar Film Festival 2016

Reconciliation and forgiveness seem to be the first questions raised in ‘Starve your dog’ by, Moroccan director, Hicham Lasri. The movie, however, touches upon many other subjects. ‘Starve your dog’, which is the second part of a trilogy that started with “They are the dogs”, draws a parallel from the ambiguity between the present and the future. The movie is about a painful episode in the history of Morocco that is revealed through an interview with the former interior minister during the reign of Hassan II, Driss Basri.

 In an experimental essay film, shifting between documentary, visual staging and socio-political poetry, Hicham Lasri uses the lost “souls” of a Morocco, that seems superficially healed from its wounds, but is in reality in an even greater suffering.

Working as usual without any compromise, Lasri draws, through this docudrama, a portrait of one of the most prominent characters in Morocco during the Years of Lead, which were marked by state violence against dissidence. .

The film opens with images of a woman, with a fierce gaze, reflecting a state of desperation in Morocco. As survival had become difficult, sentiments fluctuated between great despair and a desire for complete destruction to end the suffering in the country. This image in the film equally reflects suffering and a desire for survival. It is this same duality that we can trace throughout the movie, when we understand, finally, that the only way to move forward is to heal the wounds that were buried.

‘Starve your dog’, is the history of a televised scoop, lived by the team filming the exclusive interview of the former Minister of Interior in Morocco. King Hassan II’s right-hand man, Driss Basri symbolises the oppression and abuse of a whole nation in the 1980s. He was discharged from his functions, denied the right to a fair trial and ended up in exile, where he passed away. Through his film, Hicham Lasri allows Moroccan viewers to judge the discharged minister. What if Basri was not dead? And what if we could today make him confess?

The film is somewhere between a docudrama, a surreal drama and a visual performance. Interspersed with excerpts and images from the events of September 11, 2001 in the US. It may seem, at a first glance, hermetic, but as it progresses reveals an implacable logic. The entire anachronism in it aims to reconstruct history.

In an old studio of the Moroccan television, a team of reporters and cameramen were waiting for what had been portrayed to them as an opportunity of a lifetime. Never before had they been given the opportunity to question a high profile government official, such as Basri. The anticipation for the interview reminds us of Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, with all of the expectations, all the doubts and uncertainty with regards to being able to get something out of him or not.

The fear of facing history is palpable throughout the movie, and it is for this purpose that Hicham Lasri opted for the bold assemblage of old news images accompanied by psychedelic musical canvas, dividing the film into episodes or chapters that develop with the development of Basri’s story. Between the poor woman wishing for an earthquake in her country, the strolling of the female character in the city, and the unbearable time journalists’ spent waiting in the studio, the film is broken into sequences that run in parallel. At a first glance, it may seem difficult to interlink the different sequences, but by the end all pieces merge together in a relentlessly logical manner.

 The Canine metaphor, and the quotations from Shakespeare, Daft Punk or John Wayne, serve as punctuation in the succession of images, giving the viewer the impression of witnessing first hand an interesting human life.

The artistic quality, the original aesthetic side and the depth with which the topic is treated only confirm the prestigious place Hisham Lasri has earned himself as a director over the last few years.

On a personal level, when I watched ‘They are the dogs’ and ‘Starve your dog’, I was moved and impressed, I felt an urge, after the last scene, to immediately watch the third chapter of the trilogy. I found it to be a total success on a cinematic scale, and I hope it will touch the viewers of the Safar Film Festival the same way it touched me.

About Yamina Mechri:

Yamina Mechri is a Tunisian art director, cultural manager, writer and a media consultant with a degree in French Modern Arts Literature and Cinema. @May_Mouna