Taxi Casablanca, 68 min., Safran Films Inc., 2009
Produced by Mary Fowles
Co-directed and co-written by Mary Fowles and Hind Benchekroun
Zakia standing next to the Sea, Casablanca, 2008
Taxi Casablanca is a feature (68 min.) documentary that journeys into the daily life of Morocco’s first and only female taxi driver. The film is an intimate portrait of a modern-day pioneer forging her way in a man’s job, and is a glimpse into a fascinating Muslim society struggling with progress and old traditions.
As we ride along with Zakia in her old white 1970’s Mercedes taxi, we meet many of her clients and family members, listening in on their ideas, dreams and hopes as they shed light on the situation of women in Morocco and all the issues that come into play: religion and cultural beliefs, poverty and education, modernization and traditionalism.
Along the way, we get to know Zakia as she tries to find freedom through her life and work as a female taxi driver, challenging the status quo as she transports city locals to all corners of Casablanca. But Zakia’s taxi is aging and constantly breaking down. We watch as her struggle for personal freedom becomes a struggle just to make ends meet in her day-to-day life.
The film is shot in Arabic and French with English subtitles and unfolds to the poetic sounds of the Cinematic Orchestra.
“What happens to the guest who keep visiting
The verse of a Perfect One?
Their voices and cells become refined
And like the soft night candle (the moon)
They begin to give to this world
All the light they have
(translation by Daniel Ladinsky from The Gift)
This poetic, artistic and entertaining film enjoyed a wave of success across Canada and was supported by the Canadian International Development Agency, the Canada and Quebec Councils for the Arts, the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund and the National Film Board’s ACIC program, among other financiers. Taxi Casablanca was broadcast on TV5 in May 2009 with high audience ratings and is now being distributed in both French and English languages.
The Background Story
The journey of this film began in 2004, when I was living and working in Casablanca just a few months out of journalism school.
One sunny afternoon, I was waiting alone on the corner of a busy intersection, next to a taxi stand in downtown Casablanca. Within a few minutes, Zakia rolled up in her old white Mercedes taxi. She leaned out of the passenger window and yelled at me “So, are you jumping in or what?!” I, of course, jumped in the seat next to her and ended up riding around the city with her for 4 hours, scribbling her story down into a small notebook. The rest is history. Zakia’s life story has been my inspiration ever since.
The two of us became good friends, and a few months later I moved into a room in her apartment. We spent many early mornings and late nights riding around in her taxi together.
My new hobby was to watch the streets pass by from inside the taxi window: The mysterious streets, the random people and the foreign world passed by me like a stop motion film reel, each corner filled with its own meaning, telling a story infinitely complex and wondrous.
The taxi had become my portal to a different world. Inside, it was a kind of anonymous confessional, where Zakia (and I) got to bare witness to the most intimate of stories.
Taxi Casablanca has been made in honour of Zakia’s life. I have also dedicated this film to my two grandmothers. How many quiet and simple steps did these two women and their mothers and grandmothers before them take toward their own equality, dignity, joy and freedom, under the circumstances of their generations? Those stories, like the countless other stories that make up women’s history may never be written down or documented. But we do know that in their life time, the status of women rose to “personhood” in our own country, giving way to the right to vote, to get an education, and eventually, to live in near total equality with men. Unfortunately, we also know that most women throughout history did not live with the equality and opportunities they at times so badly desired. Sadly, this remains the situation for women today in countless countries.
Zakia found her freedom through her taxi, with the pure and simple impulse to drive. I think she is powerful example of how one courageous person can change the status quo.
Mary Fowles, 2009