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The familiarity of the plot and a lack of emotional urgency prevent the picture from truly engaging the audience.

If the story of Haut et Fort - billed as Casablanca Beats in most international territories - looks familiar, that is no coincidence. The movie plays out as a Moroccan version of Dead Poets Society, with the poetry swapped for hip-hop beats but still centring on a motivational teacher who encourages a bunch of young people to find their voice.

While Haut et Fort definitely has its moments, mostly when the film blurs the lines between reality and fantasy in a series of musical numbers that explore the inner turmoil of some of the young protagonists, the familiarity of the plot and a curious lack of emotional urgency prevent the picture from truly engaging you.

Another factor in play is the poor decision to not explore teacher Anas' background or motivations in any way, while neatly dividing his students in all too broadly drawn stereotypes, ranging from the religiously conflicted Muslim boy to fiercely feminist girls.

All of the above doesn't take away from the fact that Haut et Fort is still a pretty diverting, well-handled aspirational tale. Just don't expect anything new or transcendent.

release: 2021

director: Nabil Ayouch

starring: Anas Basbousi, Ismail Adouab, Zineb Boujemaa, Meryem Nekkach


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