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On Thursday, May 9th, I attended an event in the Little Theater at LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC). The event screened a featured film “Defining Love, a Failed Attempt,” directed by Hakim Belabbes. It was shot in Morocco in 2012. This screening was a part of the New York Forum of Amazigh Film 5th Edition Festival; called “Exploring North African Identities.”
The film focuses on Belabbes, the director, traveling to Morocco with his two actors Hamza and Zineb to find out more about this beautiful tale. The film ran a total of 90 minutes from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and was followed by a Q & A,with Belabbes, who also wrote the film.
When I first arrived to the outside of the Little Theatre entrance, there were a lot of people interacting with each other. A reception was held before the film. There was a gigantic feast of different Moroccan foods being provided for everyone, as well as beverages. As I entered the theater to take my seat in the audience, there was music playing from Amazighs and different cultures. I couldn’t understand the languages, but it was ear-opening to hear. I wasn’t used to that genre of music.
As the audience began to arrive, I spoke with a student seated next to me named Tasneem, and asked what she thought the film was about. She said she was there, “to learn about the different cultures.”
The audience wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. The crowd was full of older women and men, possibly LaGuardia faculty and staff. I was one of three young students that were there to see the film.
In the film, acting overlaps reality, bridging fiction and contemporary life. Hamza and Zineb travel to the Moroccan Atlas Mountains to research their parts in an upcoming rendition of the legend of Isli and Tisslit- an Amazigh tale of two lovers whose tears are believed to have created the two lakes that bear their names. Defining love is a meditative exploration of the invisible in our lives, with nature as its witness.
Isli and Tisslit means bride and groom in their Amazigh culture. This myth was started when these two lovers wanted to get married and their parents refused their marriage. When their parents refused their union as one, they both cried so many tears that it formed two giant lakes on opposite sides of each other.
During the film, I paid close attention to the emotions and feelings that this film gave off. The audience was pretty focused and intrigued by the film. It had some funny and sad parts. There was a lot of crying in the film and story-telling about failed relationships. “Not all of the film was fiction,” Belabbes told the audience after the film ended, “some parts were real life stories that just happened to come to life.”
The main actress Zineb had a really intense scene where she spoke about how she was in a relationship with a man for about 2-3 years and within that time he was married to someone else. He eventually ended up leaving her and breaking her heart. Zineb was distraught for a long time after this happened.
Zineb said, “ How can one love again after giving a part of yourself to someone.” When experiencing heartbreak, people tend to question themselves and their character which can cause insecurities.
Hamza decided to set out to follow the story of two young lovers named Mohammed and Aicha who were trying to get married and were denied by Aicha’s parents. So Mohammed and his father set out to Aicha’s castle to ask her father for permission to marry his daughter, who he loves and wants to take care of.
After being constantly shut down by her father, Mohammed goes around asking his family members for advice on marriage and if it would be a good idea.
Towards the end of the film, there were many scenes of them going around asking about the story of the lakes again. They encounter many different people in the villages, who tell different versions of the tale. One man says, “tears are lakes inside of us,” and, “life defeats the woman.”
The film is very moving and makes you really question what love really is.
During the Q&A session after the film I asked Belabbes thought love was, he responded: “love is the one thing that sustains us. It means everything. Everything is built around it and yet it’s got a feeling.”
My last question to him was, “if you could change anything about this film what would it be?” He answered: “I think I would just focus on one important moment; I don’t want a beginning middle and end. Capture different moments.”