Dirs: Swel and Imad Noury. Morocco. 2006.132mins.
With their powerful, if flawed, debut feature Heaven's Doors, twentysomethingbrothers Swel and Imad Noury demonstrate an abundance of talent. Made on theproverbial shoestring budget, with mum (Pilar Cazorla) producing and dad (director Hakim Noury) in one of the key roles, it overflows with anambition that is both its greatest virtue but which also derails a fullappreciation of its talents.
Yet this work from a part ofthe world seldom seen on screen remains a great calling card for twofilm-makers who audiences should hear lots from in the future. Already they arepreparing Los Comanches,about the Colombian mafia based in Madrid, with sales company Latido.
Shot with a nervoushand-held camera and accompanied by a hip-hop soundtrack like so many other featuresset in the slums, Heaven's Doors tellsthree related tales, all centred on the idea of motherhood.
The first concerns Ney (Kati), a young man trying to support his little sisterand his blind mother without giving in to an alluring life of crime. The secondcentres on a childless American woman named Lisa (Meditz)who, as a result of a shootout involving Ney, isforced into raising a 10-year-old boy.
The finalsegment deals with Smail (Noury),a convict, who lives only to see his mother and to exact revenge on Ney's gangster boss Mansour (Hamidou), who put him behind bars.
While often powerfully andpoetically recounted - in both visual and verbal terms - Heaven's Doors, which exceeds the two-hour mark, needs to beseverely pruned. Many scenes are repetitive, and the characters have a tendencyto reiterate thematic points in the dialogue that have already been made eithervisually or dramatically.
The film also needs to bemore clearly labelled as a triptych since, as currently structured,there is a drop-off in audience interest when we abandon Neyand his family to take up Lisa's problems.
It does not help mattersthat Aimee Meditz, as Lisa, is one of the weaker castmembers, making it hard for the audience to identify with her.
Rachid El Wali