When future director Maryam Touzani was living with her parents in Tangier, a woman, eight months pregnant, knocked on her family’s door asking for work. She had fled her village and needed a place to stay until she gave birth. Her intention was to give the child up for adoption and then return to her village. Touzani’s parents took her in and helped her until the child was born. Many years later, this memory would form the basis for the film Adam, Touzani’s first feature.
In the film, which takes place in Casablanca, Abla (Lubna Azabal) is a widow with an 8-year-old daughter, Warda (Douae Belkahaouda), who earns a living making baked goods and selling them through a window that looks out on the street. One day, an extremely pregnant young woman named Samia (Nisrine Erradi) shows up at her door asking for work. Samia has already been rejected by others. Whenever she telephones her family back in her home village, she pretends that she has a job and will return soon. No one back home knows that she is pregnant out-of-wedlock. Samia’s intention is to give birth, drop the baby at an orphanage and return to her village as if nothing has happened.
Abla grudgingly agrees to allow Samia to stay for a couple days, but gradually, with the help of Warda, the two women bond, and Abla passes Samia off to her noisy neighbors as her “cousin from Meknes.” It turns out that Samia knows a lot about baking. She makes a string bread specialty called rziza that becomes a big hit with Abla’s customers. She even teaches Abla how to prepare dough lovingly, rather than just pounding away at it. And she subtly encourages Abla to come out of her shell and maybe even accept the awkward advances of Slimani, who admires and adores her despite having never received any positive feedback from Abla.
Adam is a beautiful, intimate portrait, shot mostly in close-up, of two women (and one little girl) who help each other move on with their difficult lives. The film deserves much more exposure. Although it has screened at festivals, there doesn’t even exist an English-language trailer for Adam.
The film’s director of photography, Virginie Surdej, also shot Belgium’s Oscar entry, Nuestras madres. The producer of Adam, Touzani’s husband, Nabil Ayouch, has directed four of the films Morocco had entered in the Academy Awards, including the excellent Horses of God.