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The Damned Don’t Cry 18

Fyzal Boulifa, France, Belgium, Morocco, 2022, 112m.

After his critically acclaimed debut Lynn + Lucy, British-Moroccan filmmaker Fyzal Boulifa enhances his reputation with The Damned Don’t Cry, which had its world premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival.

His exceptional sophomore feature follows Fatima-Zahra (Aicha Tebbae) – a self-proclaimed independent, modern woman – and her devoted, but defiant, son Selim (Abdellah El Hajjouji). Living on the poverty line, they’ve led a mostly nomadic life, and rely on hustling to afford a place to stay. Contravening Morocco’s patriarchal norms, Fatima-Zahra relies on her feminine charm in a way that reaches beyond just survival; she’s a woman who believes she’s destined for something more. Selim is protective of his mother, but also resents her choices, lashing out with petulant behaviour. While they rely heavily on one another, their close bond enters somewhat unhealthy territory, and when Selim discovers a painful truth about his past, it sets the duo on a path they can’t turn back from. In search of a new start in Tangier, they soon find themselves on disparate trajectories, pushing the limits of their entangled relationship.

While the film follows a seemingly domestic tale of a mother-son drama, Boulifa uses this narrative to lay bare the strictures of Moroccan society that limit the possibilities of the disenfranchised. Drawing inspiration from filmmakers like Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Boulifa makes use of elements of melodrama to relay this acutely observed domestic tale of love, identity and belonging in a way that feels poignant and personal.

The Garden Cinema View:

A tale of a mother and son's tumultuous relationship as they try to survive in modern Morocco. From co-dependency and postcolonial exploitation, to queerness in a traditionalist society, and ethical dilemmas surrounding sex work, the film delves into the complex issues facing the duo. Both characters have suffered from past traumas, resulting in an unusual and quasi-Oedipal bond that echoes the unconventional universes of Pedro Almodóvar and Douglas Sirk, with a touch of social realism. The Damned Don't Cry's seamless blend of diverse styles and influences makes it a delightfully singular experience.

Aïcha Tebbae, Abdellah El Hajjouji, Antoine Reinartz

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