Moroccan director Hicham Lasri’s ambitious Headbang Lullaby made its world premiere in competition at Berlinale 2017 in the Panorama Special section. Daoud (the glorious Aziz Hattab), a Makhzen (Moroccan state police officer), is voraciously playing tennis against an unknown, unseen opponent. His storm trooper T-shirt with different emotions on it foretells his own inability to show emotion – which is tied to an accident he had while policing the 1961 Bread Riots in Casablanca. He is charged with keeping the peace on a bridge, between two feuding towns, in case King Hassan II visits. During Daoud’s day, filled with hectic and mundane events, he encounters an eclectic mix of people, including a variety of strong-willed, bold women.
The unconventional camera framing and angles make this watch a little jarring at first, but as soon as one just relaxes into Lasri’s surreal and somewhat bizarre world, then it’s a more pleasant ride. Simply put, the visuals are playful and arresting; cinematographer Charles-Hubert Morin renders the lush and radiant Moroccan landscape with such ease and precision. The shots on, of and beneath the bridge, especially a repeated image of streamers blowing in the wind, are sublime. On experiencing this spectacular visual treat, Dalí’s surrealist masterpiece The Persistence of Memory comes to mind – the slow passing of time, the mystery of one’s memory and dreamlike visions in the desert.
The soundtrack and editing expertise of Wissam Hojeij and Mona-Lise Lanfant, respectively, are on top form. Filled to the brim with robust music, both within the film and as part of the score, the images really come to life. Two moments where the lively score is later revealed to be coming from Daoud’s radio is a fun little sound trick (despite the radio losing function due to the metal plate in his head). Although Headbang Lullaby could perhaps benefit from a shortening to its length by a mere ten minutes, even in its current state it’s still wild and interesting and makes one want to research Moroccan history a bit more.
This journey, while perhaps not suiting the mainstream moviegoers taste buds, will likely do quite well on the international film festival circuit. The director’s thoughts on religion, a woman’s place in society and the tumultuous history of Morocco are issues that should be questioned. As Daoud quotes Ernest Hemingway at the start of the film, “Let us burn the fat from our souls!”. One can’t deny the unique presence of Lasri’s stylised filmmaking and the appeal of his message.
Headbang Lullaby does not have a UK release date yet.
For further information about the 67th Berlin Film Festival visit here.