Berlinale-Blogger 2017 "A psychedelic fairy tale"

©Hicham Lasri

With "Headbang Lullaby" Hicham Lasri continues his surrealistic reading of the Moroccan history.

When Hicham Lasri, the Moroccan director, released Starve Your Dog during the last round of Berlinale, some critics considered the film the last part of Lasri’s trilogy about Moroccan political history, following his other two films, They Are The Dogs and The Sea Is Behind. However, this very active Moroccan director is returning to Berlinale with a new film, demonstrating that it is not just a trilogy, but a long cinematic journey by a director who is as interested in history and politics as he is in the art of cinema as a contemporary expressive medium.

Headbang Lullaby is his new film, presented in the Panorama Special section. Lasri returns in this film to the mid-1980s, specifically to the day when the Moroccan national football team defeated its Portuguese counterpart at the 1986 FIFA World Cup. The film tells the story of a police officer in charge of protecting a bridge that separates two villages where King Al-Hassan II’s parade was likely to pass.

Theoretically speaking, the bridge can be viewed as an intermediary place or an endless transitional period in which all Arab states have to be kept waiting for a kind of Godot. During such a period, there are moments of mutiny which quickly are quickly extinguished (such as the 1981 demonstrations, which mark the beginning of the film's events), or times of celebration when negative emotions are thrown off, such as when fans celebrate after football victories.



But it is unfair to the director and the reader to limit Headbang Lullaby or any other work by Hicham Lasri to a theoretical framework that tries to find symbols and discover the connotations of the film's features. In fact, it is unthinkable that Lasri, who can be seen as a visual modernist artist, rather than a mere director in the classical sense, is only after stories.

A film for Lasri is a complete expressive work. His films are dense with elements and issues, like a crucible where the realistic, the surrealistic, the soundtrack and the radical filming technique merge together. The outcome is a sequence of scenes that tell the general story of the officer and the bridge in the new film. The story remains only one dimension of this multi-dimensional work, however.

In Headbang Lullaby, Lasri achieves full mastery in delineating what the official Berlinale website has described as a “psychedelic fairy tale,” transforming the officer’s stand on the bridge and his meeting with a group of caricatured locals into a funny comedy, for the most part. The scenes confirm the idea that what the viewer  watches is merely imaginary. Or rather, it is a piece of imagination that is closely related to reality. Given that, the fourth film tells us that reality per se goes on in most cases according to illogical rules.