Mead 2017: Chronicling Life in Rural Morocco in House in the Fields main content.

Mead 2017: Chronicling Life in Rural Morocco in House in the Fields

by AMNH on

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Filmmaker Tala Hadid first visited Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains nearly 20 years ago, when the government was in the process of building a road that would connect the region’s isolated communities with the rest of the country. The road was never finished. And while change has inevitably come to the valley’s farming villages, local traditions have persevered. 


Hadid spent six years living with a family of farmers, recording their daily life and the aspirations of their daughter Khadija in her film House in the Fields, which screens at the Margaret Mead Film Festival tomorrow at noon. She recently spoke to us about her experience and the elasticity of time.

How did you approach such a long-term project?

In the beginning, I didn’t bring out my camera for a few weeks, and I started by taking photographs. When I was living with the family, I came with my equipment, which was a very important thing because it established intimacy. I was a guest, but the camera was also a guest. It was always there; sometimes in the bedroom, in the corner, on the table.


A young girl in a pink head scarf looks out.
Khadija, one of the protagonists of the film House in the Fields, lives in rural Morocco.

Did you ever feel like your presence affected the actions of your subjects?

Our very presence as cinematographers affects what’s going on, the camera’s presence, [too], that’s just a fact. There were moments when people were very aware, and behavior changed ever so slightly, and took on a performative element. In the wedding sequence, I and the camera became part of the rite. I could feel they were aware that there was a gaze on them. But sometimes the camera was also invisible, as I was too.

What changes did you observe in the community during the time you spent there?

The boys who move to the city as itinerant and migrant laborers come back with different ideas, but they still remain very attached to their community and to the land. A few months ago, when I returned to see the family, the boys were showing me videos of a wedding and a harvest ritual on their mobile telephones. The clothes had changed, but the roots of the ritual were still there.

You’d mentioned that you hope the film might awaken in viewers an “awareness of the flux and mystery of time.” Can you elaborate?

Time is different up there than it is in the city. Obviously, staying there longer, one’s experience of time becomes more elastic, much slower. Most of the people there, in their daily lives, are basically bound to the land, to the mountains, to a vast and imposing landscape. It was interesting to try and enter the time of this place, and to try to express that temporality in cinematographic form. 

To buy tickets to House in the Fields and for more information on films and screenings, visit the Margaret Mead Film Festival website.