Ben Barka: The Moroccan Equation

Directed by Simone Bitton

84 minutes / Color
French / English subtitles
Release: 2003
Copyright: 2002

Ben Barka was abducted on a Paris street in October 1965 and later murdered; his body was never found, nor were the culprits positively identified. By documenting the life and significant accomplishments of Ben Barka—his dedication to his country and people - this compelling documentary answers the question, "Who wanted him dead?"

Barka's extraordinary career began as a gifted child from the slums of the Medina who earned Morocco's first degree in mathematics. As a member of the Istiqlal ("Freedom") Party, he was a leader in the movement to oust the French from Morocco. But his dreams of a free and open state after independence in 1956 were soon frustrated. King Mohammed V and his successor, Hassan II, sought to hold all the powers of government in the framework of an absolute monarchy under French tutelage. Barka's radical politics, and his economic development programs, caused conflict with the ruling monarch. The ensuing power struggle extended through the three centers of power in post-independence Morocco: the royal family and its governing mechanisms, the Istiqlal Party, and the opposition movement of Ben Barka.

At a time when Morocco is trying to exorcise its past, BEN BARKA unearths the story of Morocco's greatest and most controversial political figures. His abduction and murder sparked the infamous "Ben Barka Affair" of the 1960s. Yet this film is not another enquiry about the "Affair." Rather, it is about his life, because, his disappearance may have prevented him from taking his rightful place in history.

"A story of colonialism, independence and post-colonial internal power struggles between different political entities in the country, but [also] a moral story of Morocco. [The film] unearths the memories of Ben Barka's supporters and opponents. Rare historical documents... [bring] a sense of immediacy. A valuable resource for the academic audience interested in the post-independence of modern nation states that experienced colonization."—Professor Aomar Boum, University of Arizona, for the Middle East Studies Association Bulletin

"Highly Recommended! This film well represents Ben Barka's life, as well as the political situation in Morocco in the last several decades. Its picture and sound qualities are good, and it moves at a crisp pace that will engage the viewer."—Educational Media Reviews Online

"This superb portrait of the anti-colonial militant Ben Barka serves to remind us of what the Morocco of today owes him. Reveals much... through interviews of his friends and rare, archival images."—Les Inrockuptibles

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Select Accolades

  • 2003 Middle East Studies Association FilmFest
  • 2003 African Studies Association Film Festival
  • Special Mention, 2002 Prix de l'Audiovisuel Méditerranéen
  • 2002 Human Rights Watch Film Festival
  • 2002 San Francisco Arab Film Festival
  • 2002 Jerusalem Film Festival


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