“A woman is only a woman, but a man must be a man. A real man.”
Malik (Fehd Benchemsi), Soufiane (Fouad Labied) and Allal (Mouhcine Malzi) are close friends in the port city of Tetouan, Morocco, caught up in petty crime. With no real purpose in their lives, they spend their days robbing people of their possessions and using the cash to buy alcohol and get high. Though their bond is close, Malik falls for Dounia (Imane Elmechrafi) a prostitute whose presence in the men’s lives threatens to tear them apart. Eventually setting their sights higher, the trio decide to rob a jewellery store, but everything goes wrong with irreversible consequences.
Society has created these individuals but has little to no pity on them., with writer/director Faouzi Bensaidi presenting a rather unappealing view of Tetouan, a patriarchal, corrupt, amoral society. The three young men all dream of bigger and better things, but are resigned these will most likely always be out of reach. Death For Sale plays out as a dichotomy between a gritty thriller on the streets of Tetouan and a stylised drama capturing picturesque mountains that serve as a backdrop, a door to a life beyond the crime that fills the town.
Religion plays a subtler role in Death For Sale presented in differing and often opposing ways, diffusing common misconceptions about fundamentalism in the region. Loyalty and survival are the more pressing themes at play and it seems as though it’s not entirely necessary to have both.
The audience knows where the film is headed long before it gets there, very much like watching a trail slowly derail. As the title indicates, Death For Sale doesn’t provide any happy endings. These men are a product of their society, which unfortunately doesn’t elevate them to fulfil any kind of potential. The strong sense of unease throughout the film builds up to an explosive final, the three corrupted beyond rehabilitation, with the concept of wasted youth all too apparent.
Death For Sale is screening as part of the 2013 Melbourne International Film Festival.