Kadib Abyad (The Mother of All Lies): Asmae el Moudir’s duty of memory

The Mother of All Lies

With experience working for Al Jazeera, the BBC and Al Araby TV, it’s safe to say that Asmae el Moudir is a seasoned documentary-maker. Born in Casablanca, the Moroccan Film Academy graduate and director has won a number of prizes and awards for her work. Following on from her medium-length film The Postcard (2020), she reflects on her own past and that of her country in Kadib Abyad (The Mother of All Lies), in Selection for Un Certain Regard.

Moroccan director Asmae el Moudir sets out to uncover why the only photograph she has of herself as a child is a picture of an unknown girl. In a bid to explore her past, the young woman creates a model of the Casablanca neighbourhood where she grew up, and begins investigating her parents’ and grandmother’s pasts. Sifting back through her childhood, the filmmaker unravels Morocco’s political and social history.

Getting your loved ones to appear on camera is no mean feat, especially when you’re asking them to revisit the ghosts of the past. While the stability of el Moudir’s own family is built on lies, so is that of Moroccan society, where the people are still waiting for the truth about what really happened during the ‘Years of Lead’, when King Hassan II reigned over the country.

“While the little girl revists childhood memories, the filmmaker imbues the images with a whole different meaning.”

The Casablanca bread riots in June 1981 resulted in hundreds of deaths that were erased from the history books, and resurface here through the directors’ research and interviews. In stripping bare her family’s inner circle, Asmae el Moudir lends a face and voice to the suffering of ‘the Kingdom of the Western Place’.