I don't usually like to comment on a film before it is released but with so much debate in Morocco about Nabyl Ayouch's "Much Loved" I feel like I should ask some questions that I hope can inform the debate a little better. As of now the debate is generally polarized between the “liberal” view, which holds that the film is good because it will expose prostitution and humanize prostitutes; and the “conservative” view, which holds that the film is bad because it is vulgar. In this debate, liberals auto-proclaim themselves to be open-minded, progressive and in favor of women’s rights when in fact both views are sexist.
Since I have not seen the film, I can not really comment on the film itself but only on the debate about it. However, what I can do is ask questions about the film:
1. Is a film that uses an extract like this one as a marketing tool aiming to "save" women from prostitution, or is it further objectifying and sexualizing them? If it is objectifying women, then is the film not contributing to the same narrative that justifies patriarchy and the abuse of women that comes with it?
2. Will young Moroccan men flock to the movie theaters (a predominantly male space) to understand the woes that sex workers face and the conditions that lead to them being prostitutes? Or will they flock to the cinema to see the pornographic images from the trailer— participating, through the screen, in a mass abuse of the very same women the film claims to want to protect?
3. What methods did the male director use to interview the 100-200 prostitutes? Is the director taking advantage of the prostitutes’ weaker positions— is interviewing and using real prostitutes as actresses another form of prostitution? One where it is the camera that penetrates the woman?
4. After his film “Ali Zaoua” (2000) Nabil Ayouch was accused (by the Moroccan public and by some of the real street children that played in his film) of exploiting street children, is Ayouch exploiting sex workers in the same way? Does the film protect the sex workers who performed in it or does it endanger them by revealing their identities?
5. Defending his film, Nabil Ayouch claims he is simply showing reality in order to change that reality. But does realism in cinema always imply a potential to change society? In “Ali Zaoua” and “The Horses of God” (2012) Nabil Ayouch showed us "reality" but did not offer us an understanding of the structural problems that lead to these injustices. An analysis from a Third Cinema perspective reveals that Ayouch's previous films are "Second Cinema" or auteur films, cinema that appeals to the elite, empty of militancy or genuine aspirations to effect change in society. On "Ali Zaoua" Dave Kehr writes in his review in the New York Times: "as shocking as this social reality is, the film is less interested in moving a viewer to anger and action than in eliciting a few tears of pity and granting us a warm glow of self-congratulation for having shared for a moment in the anguish of underprivileged others." To lead to concrete action a film should hold those in power accountable, will "Much Loved" do that?