Release of “Chettah”, a social comedy about acceptance of the other

In the town of Tahanoute, near Marrakech, a young sports coach named Rabiæ is forced to team up with a popular music group to dance as a “chettah” (cross-dresser) in order to get a European grant. His goal: to renovate and equip his modest gym, and thus live in better conditions with his fiancée, Jamila. What will happen if his father, a very pious imam, finds out? What will his future father-in-law, president of the commune, say when he sees his future son-in-law cross-dressing and swaying to the heady rhythm of the aïta notes?

This is the synopsis of Lotfi Ait Jaoui’s new feature film, which offers a funny and slapstick social comedy. Around the character of the “chettah”, the director shares a message of tolerance and acceptance of the other “as he is”.

The “chettah” represents an important figure of the Moroccan popular cultural and artistic heritage. It is notably found in the “halqa” of the famous Jemaa El Fna square in Marrakech or in wedding ceremonies and fairs. Naturally anchored in the musical and entertainment culture of Morocco, the “chettah” is increasingly frowned upon today by some people, notes the director.

“In Moroccan history, Bouchaib El Bidaoui is a very popular artist. Our parents lived with this person, in all coherence and without any complex”, he comments, adding that this film is also a tribute to the dancer from Casablanca who died when he was only 37 years old, as well as to “this type of dance that has existed for a long time and will always exist”.

It is Abdelilah Rachid, noticed in particular in “God’s horses” by Nabil Ayouch (2012) and the TV series “Rdat Lwalida” (2017-2019), who was chosen to play Rabiæ, the “chettah” in spite of himself. Juggling between sports jogging and sequined dress, the 38-year-old actor has stepped out of his comfort zone.

“It is the first time I play such a character, quite different from those I have played in movies or on television. It was not an easy role … I had to work on my psyche, my body, learn to dance like a “chettah”, familiarize myself with all the culture around this profession … Being disguised like this is not easy, “said Abdelilah Rachid who confides that he accepted this project precisely for its “different” character, both in terms of the role and the scenario.

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