14 September 2021

Film review: Horses of God (2012) by Nabil Ayouch, *****


In Horses of God, Nabil Ayouch tells the story of two young soccer-loving friends, Yachine and Nabil, growing up under the fierce protection of Yachine's older brother, Hamid.

But in the sprawling slums of Sidi Moumen, not even Hamid can defend them against the harshness and injustice of the life that surrounds them. Fed up with that life, Hamid throws a rock at a police car and earns himself two years in prison. When he returns, an eerie calm masks his newfound zealotry, and his fundamentalist friends seem to exercise a powerful influence.

Inspired by the real-life 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca, Ayouch's film is a thoughtful and affecting inquiry into how ordinary people come to do desperate, unfathomable things. A major achievement by one of North Africa's most important filmmakers, the film was hugely successful both at Cannes and in its native Morocco and has won acclaim from public and critics alike.


An instructive movie to try and begin to understand, at least in part, how extremism can take root when other values and points of reference are missing. In this case this is the story of Moroccan kids who become terrorists but it could have happened in many other countries, including Europe. One also gets an insight into other real problems in a Moroccan muslim shantytown, with poverty, male chauvinism and petty crime.

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