STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH



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Thirty-four-year-old Jmiaa Bent Larbi has been making a living as a sex worker in Casablanca for nearly 15 years. Ever since her abusive ex-husband, Hamid, abruptly immigrated to Spain, she has been steadily courting clients outside the local market to support herself and her daughter, Samia. Jmiaa works alongside several other women who live in her building, and together they spend evenings drinking, chatting, and arguing as they wait for men to pass by. Jmiaa is unashamed of her life; she’s proud of her knowledge about the profession and her ability to provide for her family. “I’m only explaining the bare minimum to her,” she asserts when asked to help a new recruit. “It took me years to learn what I know; I’m not about to give everything away.” Still, when Chadlia—a young filmmaker Jmiaa calls “Horse Mouth” because of her toothy smile—presents her with an exciting opportunity, Jmiaa jumps on board, and over the next three years, her life changes in ways she never could have imagined. Alaoui depicts Jmiaa’s character with humanity and grace. While certainly not avoiding sex, Alaoui makes the noteworthy choice of decentering this element of Jmiaa’s life. Instead, by digging into her difficult relationship with her mother, the fierce loyalty of her cherished friend Samira, and her fish-out-of water experience working with Chadlia, Alaoui emphasizes that Jmiaa’s work with clients is simply one part of her story. Throughout, Jmiaa’s narration adds levity and showcases her bold and irreverent nature. At the same time, it is her fiery independence that makes the later chapters—centered on her work in film—feel disingenuous. Following a typical savior narrative, Chadlia swoops in with funding  to offer the possibility of a more socially acceptable, glamorous life, and thus the story begins to plunge into the tired trope of the American dream.



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