Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets

This 2000 Moroccan feature by Nabil Ayouch spins an engrossing tale about a quartet of filthy, glue-addicted boys who fend for themselves on the waterfront of Casablanca. The title character, who fantasizes about sailing to a mythical island, is killed by their former gang, and though his three sidekicks vow to give him a decent burial, their resolve is tested by squabbles, mixed signals from adults, and threats from the gang. Ayouch sharply delineates the characters (most of the kids were recruited right off the streets), and the film's tone modulates between sobriety and whimsy. His carefully composed shots avoid cliches of cinema verite but are intimate enough to show how poverty chips away at the children's innocence. In Arabic with subtitles. 90 min.

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