A scene from the award winning film Pegasus by Mohamed Mouftakir
The huge popularity of Moroccan films at home and abroad as put the Maghreb region in the spotlight of cinema, beyond the sensationalist headlines of the current Western journalism.
Brilliant films are emerging from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia like Samira’s Garden (Morocco: Latif Lahlou 2008), Barakat! (Algeria, Djamila Sahraoui 2006), and Buried Secrets (Tunisia, Raja Amari 2009).
In these films, it is often the portrayal of women that brings the complex reality of the Maghreb to the attention of a worldwide audience. The film Pegasus by Mohamed Mouftakir won the Golden Stallion at this year’s FESPACO (2011) and it’s another of those films coming out of the Maghreb that addresses the complex reality of women’s life to huge critical acclaim.
Pegasus is a story about a young woman who is found on the streets, wounded and with no memories of her past - but a mental reference to an unknown Lord of the Horse. The plotline intertwines with the experiences of the psychiatrics Dr. Zineb, who is treating the young woman at the hospital and trying to find out who she is.
Shot using the RED camera, the aesthetic appeal of the film is unquestionably beautiful; director Mouftakir’s cinematography is one of the highlights of the film. Tracking long shots of rolling fields, farmland, hills, as well as the beautiful architecture of ancient villages were brought to life in vibrant colours by the use of establishing visual shot and angles.
The use of a beautiful black stallion as the central visual imagery in the film lends itself well to the visual experience by being the threatening symbol of power and danger in what is essentially a dark story - a story about a crisis of identity and the trauma of rape.
The film Pegasus has echoes of the Egyptian 1973 masterpiece The Night of Counting the Years by Chadi Abdel Salam. As in Chadi Abdel Salam’s film, the landscape in Pegasus is not merely a setting; it is an enigmatic character that defines the personalities and actions of the protagonists to such an extent that they lose themselves in its beauty.
The plotline is dense and it’s obvious that the director wants his viewers to think and engage with the storyline and perhaps also question the actions of the protagonists. And while this is great and the two plotlines complement each other and collide to create tension and intrigue, the film lacks surprising elements precisely because it tries too hard to not be obvious to the audience.
Pegasus is a stunning film with great acting, amazing photography and very strong storyline – a must watch film from a director who is quickly becoming one of the main voices of the New Moroccan cinema wave.
Stefanie Van de Peer,
Director Africa in Motion film festival, Edinburgh
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