Tetouan, the Atlantic port city in the north of Morocco. Three young men decide to rob a jewellery store. They are among the hopelessly unemployed street population of Morocco’s provincial cities, common thugs in the eyes of many but bound by solidarity and friendship. They see the heist as a means to break out of a cycle of poverty that weighs on their destiny like a life sentence.
Malik, a dashing 26-year-old man, is in love with Dounia, a cabaret dancer. He wants start-up capital to help rescue her from a life of prostitution and make a new future for them as a couple. Allal, the toughest of the three, wants fast cash to stake a solid entry into the business of drug-smuggling. Impish high-school dropout Soufiane, the youngest of the group, has his own motives for wanting to kill the jewellery store owner. But the plan goes awry and the men’s destinies splinter.
The noir motifs woven into Death for Sale constitute a poetic matrix through which director Faouzi Bensaidi draws his incisive and intricate portrait of a city left to fend for itself, torn between smugglers and corrupt officials, and prey to extremism and dejection. Marc-André Batigne’s cinematography captures with masterful acuity the contrast between the magnificent openness of the sky and Tetouan’s seedy underworld. It’s a perfect match for Bensaidi’s directorial style, which steadily morphs from contemplative to terse. The director’s decision to cast young, relatively unknown actors, whose raw energy fills the screen, was a risky but rewarding artistic choice. Death for Sale, Bensaidi’s third feature, is yet another remarkable feat in the filmmaker’s versatile body of work.
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