A Thousand Months
Faouzi Bensaidi writes about his teenage years in Morocco, which formed the basis of his movie, A Thousand Months. The opening anecdote is highly illustrative of the repressive atmosphere of the 1980s
In the autumn of 1981, when I was 14, I read some of my poetry to my schoolmates. The collection, I blush to recall, was called My Loves and My Rebellions. When the reading was over, the other pupils applauded and I felt like a rock star.
A young man came up to me afterwards. He had long hair that had never seen a comb yet was still smooth and beautiful, fingers stained yellow by cheap tobacco and a tough, dangerous look in his eyes. And, of course, a beard. These were the days when a beard was a homage to Marx or Che Guevara, not some mullah or other. He offered to help me publish my poetry.
Bensaidi meets this Che-like character again and gives him his poetry collection.
The young man told us that he had been jailed for his beliefs. He was a student at Fez university, which he portrayed as a remote and intriguing place, with its student rebellion, its Marxist-Leninist groups, and the sometimes violent confrontation with Islamist movements. The fundamentalists were small in number, but tolerated by the authorities. In the dangerous game that a number of countries practised at the time, they were used as a counterweight to the left. You’d think no one had heard about Frankenstein and his monster.
The student promised he’d be in touch once he’d shown my poems to his comrades. After he left, my friend said I’d been an idiot to give my poems to such a shady character. “Whatever happens, you’re done for,” he told me. “If he’s from the underground and he’s picked up with your poems on him, you’ll be arrested. If he publishes you, that’ll prove that you’re part of his group. And if he’s an informer who wanted a record of what he heard yesterday, you’re screwed.”
Bensaidi went on to become a filmmaker and A Thousand Months is now playing in Morocco (where I hope to see it when I visit in a few weeks.)
Thanks to David for the link.