Choukri’s For Bread Alone, on Film

I managed to miss this, somehow: Mohamed Choukri’s cult classic, Al-Khobz Al-Hafi (For Bread Alone) has been made into a movie, starring none other than the enormously talented Said Taghmaoui (if you don’t know Taghmaoui, you’ll probably remember him for his role as Captain Said in David O. Russell’s Three Kings, and as the Beur youth in Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine, among many others.) Those not familiar with Choukri get a little background from the Morocco Times:

Born during a famine in the Rif mountains, Choukri moved with his family to Tangier. His childhood was spent in abject poverty; eight of his brothers and sisters died of malnutrition or neglect. During his adolescence, Choukri worked for a time as servant to a French family.

Following one of many family disputes, he left the house at the age of 11, embracing a life of homelessness and petty crime. He then returned to Tangier, where he experienced the violence of the 1952 independence riots. These early experiences provided him with material for his first and most famous book, “Al-Khubz Al-Hafi” (For Bread Alone) written in 1972 but not published in Arabic until 1982.

At the age of 20, he decided to learn to read and write classical Arabic – a decision that transformed his life. After mastering the language, he became a teacher and writer, finally being awarded the chair of Arabic Literature at Ibn Batuta College in Tangier. Choukri died of cancer in 2003 at the age of 64.

I once met Said Taghmaoui, when he was at the Sundance Film Festival to promote Hideous Kinky, in which he co-starred with Kate Winslet. (The movie is based on Esther Freud’s novel by the same name.) He was surprised to see another Moroccan in Park City, Utah, shook my hand enthusiastically, and was extremely charming. Doesn’t hurt that he’s got so much talent. I do look forward to seeing the movie, if it ever comes out in the States.