Thursday, December 8, 2016

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SDSU film student Nadir Bouhmouch

Takin' it to the Streets

One international student's political journey unfolds on the screen.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

Nadir Bouhmouch's political awakening began with the confiscation of his camera in June 2010.

The SDSU international student was returning home to Morocco for a break when authorities seized his camera at the airport. It took him three weeks to track it down, and when he finally retrieved it, Bouhmouch was a changed man.

“That incident turned my belief system around,” he recalled. “I knew Morocco had problems, but I had never attributed them to the government."

"... I am a filmmaker, but more importantly,
I am a protestor ..."

Months later, when Bouhmouch, a film major, resolved to document oppression in Moroccan society, the camera had its revenge.

Worldwide screening

Bouhmouch’s film, “My Makhzen and Me,” has been screened in 18 cities in the U.S., Morocco, Spain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. The French newspaper Le Soir and Spain’s El Mundo wrote about the film, and the independent news website that supports Morocco’s anti-government protest movement sponsored its world premiere in February.

Makhzen is the name for Morocco’s ruling elite, who control most of the nation’s wealth. Anger toward this group and King Mohammed VI is a hallmark of Morocco’s Arab Spring, which was inspired by more vehement and regime-changing uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Bouhmouch’s film looks at the February 20th movement, a group of Moroccan students who, through the use of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, mobilized tens of thousands to take over the streets and demand change on February 20, 2011.

“I am a protestor”

The protests in Morocco had been going on for several months when Bouhmouch returned home again in the summer of 2011. He scoured Rabat for a street vendor to serve as the film’s protagonist — reminiscent of the Tunisian street vendor whose act of self-immolation-as-protest became the catalyst for the Arab Spring in December 2010.

Bouhmouch found a suitable subject in a vendor who, despite his education, had been unable to achieve social mobility. But gradually, the man became fearful and unwilling to talk.

“His fear forced me to change the direction of my film, and I used his fear to advance my story,” Bouhmouch said. “I explored how my presence in the streets might be affecting the situation. I am a filmmaker, but more importantly, I am a protestor, and the movie unfolds from a protestor’s point of view. I never interviewed the authorities. I didn’t have access, and I didn’t trust them.”

Real democracy

The president of SDSU’s Amnesty International chapter, Bouhmouch attributes his activist inclinations to an American education. He will graduate from SDSU next spring with a double major in film and International Security and Conflict Resolution (ISCOR).

“I matured politically through ISCOR,” he said. “I already had the international perspective, but ISCOR kept it alive and raised a lot of issues that aren’t often discussed in the classroom. I realized that I wasn’t exposed to real democracy until I came to America.”