Vivre À Tazmamart

Davy Zylberfajn

France, 2005, 72 min.

From 1973 to 1991 these “disappeared” persons struggled to stay alive and not lose the hope that one day they would see their families again. Officially, King Hassan II of Morocco denied the very existence of the Tazmamart prison, but in 1991 the king gave in to international pressure and ordered the release of the eighteen prisoners who had survived.

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We meet five of these men, now in their fifties or sixties, in Davy Zylberfajn’s documentary “Vivre à Tazmamart”. The director never shows the prison, and he does not take the prisoners back to the place where they suffered. Instead he films the men telling their stories in long takes that leave time for reflection and sharing with the characters.

As a film about memory, “Vivre à Tazmamart” functions as an interplay between the filmed and the viewer, inviting the viewer to connect to the narrators and their stories and let their words create images in our own minds. This is not hard at all: the characters and ex-prisoners chosen for the film are all great storytellers. The story about how one of them succeeded in capturing a ray of sunshine with a piece of a mirror and how that small thing was like a link to the outside world is especially moving. Strangely enough, the men never appear as victims, they exude a dignity and strength that may explain why they are alive.

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