“The Mother of All Lies”: Asmae El Moudir films a dive into a family story full of secrets


Asmae El Moudir was 12 years old when she realized that no photos of her as a child existed. No more from his family. She then questioned her mother who, after arguing with her daughter, resolved part of the mystery. The fault lay with the paternal grandmother, an authoritarian figure who reigned terror within the clan, who had always refused the presence of photographs in the house. The grandmother claimed religion as the pretext, did not wish to say more, no one dared to challenge her.

Years later, Asmae El Moudir, who had become a director, and now better informed about the history of her country (which her loved ones as much as the school had always silenced), undertook for her first feature film to revive everyone’s memory , to free speech to recreate family memories.

Since the traces of the past had disappeared, she decided to make them in the literal sense of the term, commissioning her father, a tile mason by trade, to build a miniature replica of the neighborhood and the house of her Moroccan childhood, in Casablanca. But also to sculpt figurines intended to represent members of the family.

A family business

It is in this workshop where she brought together her grandmother, her mother, her father and her two uncles that the director installs us. And we witness the creation of the decor, the progress of the scenario which is written as each person agrees to their secrets, at their own pace. The Mother of All Lies is, on several levels, a family business that the film brilliantly portrays. The device chosen by Asmae El Moudir, the same one used, for similar reasons, by the Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh in his film The Missing Image (2013), creates a fertile ground for reminiscences.

Invested in the project, everyone reacts, sometimes contests, stays silent or lets go. While she is making the clothing for the figurines, the mother, Ouardia, whispers to her daughter that she no longer really loves her husband, or at least just a little. The grandmother, Zahra, as bad as a moth – and, therefore, very funny and sympathetic – slips her severe eye everywhere, spies, grumbles at her figurine which she considers deformed, before throwing it across the decor . We will learn, at the very end, the tragedies that made it so hard.

And then there is the father, Mohamed, who builds and refines the model, silent except when it comes to evoking his football memories, when he dreamed of a professional future. The field on which he played is also the repository of a terrible story. There is Uncle Saïd, who stands in the background. Like Uncle Abdallah, who will eventually break down and recount, through tears, the trauma he experienced from which he never recovered.

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