'School of Hope' – Hot Docs Review

Moroccan Mohamed El Aboudi provides a wonderful series of visuals and crafts a memorable, amusing, engaging and powerful new film
'School of Hope' – Hot Docs Review

A beautifully staged documentary shot over three years, director Mohamed El Aboudi’s thoroughly engaging film is a warm, compassionate and ultimately hopeful portrait of a remote and dusty school in the expansive desert east of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, where the Oulad Boukais tribe tries to educate their young.

This is a tough and stunningly impressive region where seasonal rain and snow once supported livestock and nomadic traditions, but where an extended drought caused by the climate crisis never seems to end.

But the nomadic tribe want to try and ensure their children’s future and set up a school – with no water, toilets and little in the way of facilities – and recruit a genial teacher. The further challenge is to convince parents that children should make the long, regular, journey to the school. The harsh realities of unemployment, illiteracy and loss of tradition lie at the heart of the film, but its warm-hearted core is about the children's excitement to learn.

The Oulad Boukais tribe have lost their livestock and nomadic way of living to climate change, with life getting harsher day by day. Unable to get government support for even water or electricity, they invest in education by building for the young teacher. Their children ride donkeys and bicycles or walk for miles to attend a “school of hope” built of clay.

The film follows students Mohamed, Miloud and Fatima, all of whom are modestly desperate to better themselves and not get caught up the cycle of harsh-work and strict tradition that defines their parents. Mohamed’s father is determined his son works with their livestock and on the farm; Miloud’s father engagingly seeks out a bicycle so his young son can cover the long distance to the school, and Fatima is caught between her mother (who wants her to learn) and other male family members she think she should stay at home.

The film covers the various seasons – as wind, sun and snow have an impact – with the desert providing a mesmerising backdrop with its vast bleakness and helps give the film a real sense of cinematic beauty, and with Moroccan Mohamed El Aboudi providing a wonderful series of visuals and crafts a memorable, amusing, engaging and powerful new film.

He said: “With this film I want to show that climate change is very unjust. People with the smallest carbon footprint, like the Oulad Boukais tribe, are the ones who suffer the most. For these people, education is a matter of life and death – there is no future with dignity without education.”


Finland-France-Morocco-US,2021, 78mins

Dir/scr Mohamed El Aboudi

Production Illume, Bellota Films, La Prod, Vulcan Productions

Producer Pertti Veijalainen

Cinematography Hannu-Pekka Vitikainen, Marita Halifors, Paivi Kettunen

Editors Lizi Geiber, Florence Bresson, Mohamed El Aboudi, Mikko Sippola

Music Richard Horowitz, Andrew Silagy


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