MOROCCO: THE PAST AND PRESENT OF DJEMMA EL FNA
"The film blends the tourist's 'gaze' with that of Moroccans earning their livelihood in the plaza... By allowing tourists to speak about what they see and English-speaking Moroccans to talk about what they want to see elsewhere, Montgomery avoids the clichés of travel videos and ethnographic films of an earlier era."
Dale F. Eickelman
* * * * * * *Marrakech’s famous square has for decades stirred the imagination of Westerners. This documentary captures the color and romance that once led visitors such as Edith Wharton, Winston Churchill and later, hippies of the 1970’s --to marvel at its magic.
In the film, we reach the Place Djemma El Fna by horse and carriage trotting at full speed through the narrow streets of the Medina.
Inside the gates of the old city, we enter the magical square with its storytellers, acrobats, musicians, and the snake charmers - - a place where caravans from the Sahara once journeyed for trade and entertainment. Our Moroccan guide introduces us to performers he has seen since boyhood: a man who drinks boiling water for amazed crowds, costumed monkeys dancing to wild drum beats, a blue-robed man from the Sahara selling natural medicines from the desert, and snake charmer Blaid Farrouss, whose cobra rises from the pavement and dances in a "hypnotic state". By chance, we meet a mysterious, veiled Moroccan woman who speaks to us in English with a Brooklyn accent and decries the effect tourists have on young Moroccans
From early morning when Moroccan children arrive for storytelling -- to evening when foreigners feast on spicy chicken and soups, we discover the square as an enduring symbol of Arab hospitality -- a place that Moroccans affectionately call
"the heart of Morocco".
(18 minutes, 1995, video)