Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fez Students Offer Insights into Changing Culture

An innovative film-making course is helping students share their perceptions of Moroccan society. 

“Documentary making is useful for exploring the intermingling of modernity and tradition,” says Jihane Stella, a Masters student in Cultural Studies at the University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah in Fes.

Jihane Stella - photo Suzanna Clarke
Twenty-three year old Jihane, pictured above, is working on a documentary called McDonaldization and Moroccan Culture. The two year documentary course, run through the Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences at the university, is partly funded by the American Language Center.

The course has 17 students, divided into teams working on four documentaries. The other topics covered are Sufism; Moroccan politics and about how American culture and foreign policy are perceived by the patrons of local hairdressing salons.

Course teacher, Jamal Morelli, is better known at the American Language Center as the co-ordinator of the ALC Film Club and a teacher of English. However, he is also a talented film-maker in his own right. “After studying with Jamal last year, I became excited about the potential of the medium,” Jihane says. “We started studying the theory of documentary making, how to shoot where and when and what to shoot – and how to tell a story using video.”

Her half-hour-long documentary project, McDonalization and Moroccan Culture, aims to show how the culture of the corporation has affected traditional Moroccan society. The project is based on a 1993 book The McDonaldization of Society by sociologist and writer, George Ritzer, in which he argues that in contemporary society, traditional ways of thinking are being replaced by an emphasis on efficiency and rationalization. “For example, the kind of building McDonalds have built here in Fez,” says Jihane. “McDonalds yields to the traditional architecture of Morocco, so people accept their product as a Moroccan and not a European one.”

The documentary includes interviews with local politicians, as well as young people in McDonalds who speak about their perceptions of how the new culture may threaten their own culture. Jihane hopes to complete her project by January. “We have done seventy per cent of the work, we have the editing to do now.” She doesn’t yet know where it will be shown, but ideally would like to see it on television to promote discussion about a vital topic.

Find out what is happening at the American Language Center on ALC FEZBOOK


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