Gaël Morel’s French and Arabic film Catch the Wind is worthy of watching, even though it may simplify complex issues surrounding race and privilege.
Sandrine Bonnaire plays a white textiles factory worker in France who chooses redeployment rather than severance pay when her position is terminated. She relocates to Tangiers, Morocco, and the majority of the film deals with the adjustment period this requires. As a white woman, she certainly stands out in the bustling marketplace of Tangiers, especially more so when she opts to not wear a headscarf on the bus to work run by Islamic fundamentalists.
Edith takes a room at a hotel run by mother-and-son team, Mina and Ali. Mina is initially gruff towards her new tenant, preferring to pawn off hosting and touring duties to street urchins or her own son. The handsome Ali is much more patient and friendly and provides a bridge to his stormy mother.
In the Moroccan factory, Edith learns that she will not have the same responsibilities as she did in France. Her new workplace is able to cut corners when it comes to employee rights and safety regulations (the factory relocated here, to a “tax-free” zone, since the costs of labour were lower), and Edith finds herself doing menial tasks with antiquated sewing machines. Edith’s white privilege manifests itself when she’s able to refuse unsafe work, but the woman replacing her is not so lucky. Furthermore, Edith is able to go behind her direct supervisor’s back and speak to a higher-up – something I’m sure the other employees dare not think of.
The film provides a passing glance to various social inequalities found in Morocco and France. However, much to my disappointment, the film is not focused on exploring those issues or having Edith gain insight about her privileged place in this society. I was hoping that Edith had a special purpose for being in Morocco – apparently, her husband died of cancer working in the France factory, so was she a secret factory reformer? – but the ending, where you find her true motives for transplanting her entire life, are not reflective of the society she is ultimately joining.
Yet, I don’t want to write this film off as #WhitePeopleProblems, as I think there are a few redeeming qualities, especially as Edith learns more about Moroccan culture and history. She’s not claiming to be a saviour or to rescue the Moroccan employees from oppression – which is, admittedly, a small step forward for white characters to take in these kind of stories. I only wish there was more growth for Edith in her crash course on Morocco.