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Trances Criterion Blu-ray Review

“Trances” gives viewers a look at a Moroccan phenomenon.

Directed by Ahmed El Maanouni, “Trances” is an intimate 1981 music documentary on the Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane. While much of “Trances” takes a concert film approach by showcasing the band performing in various countries, a portion of the film also focuses on behind-the-scenes footage of the 4 band members (Omar Sayed,  Larbi Batima, Abderrahman Paco, and Allal Yaala). Through these scenes, we see their chemistry, rehearsals, and everyday lives in an almost poetic fashion (which is apt considering their music is often poetic).

Nass El Ghiwane may be unknown to many in America, but in Morocco and other cities they are on the level of superstars like The Beatles in terms of popularity. Formed in 1971 and still active to my knowledge, the band has struck a chord with people (Moroccans especially) as their songs/stories about politics, religion, hope, loss, and daily struggles speak to people. This is especially evident in the crowd reaction shots where the fans are vibing to the music in profound ways (some might say they are entranced). Really, that’s what “Trances” is all about- the music. More specifically, it’s about the power of music and how important it is to the musicians and the passionate fans. 

Now, it’s possible some viewers may find the genre of music to not be their cup of tea, but like any good music documentary, you don’t have to be interested in the music to appreciate the movie. Cinema is all about being transported to another time, place, or world and “Trances” does just that. We (the audience) get to see a cultural sensation on and off stage while also getting a look at Moroccan culture at a certain time period.


Presentation: 1.66:1 1080p. How does it look? With this 2K digital restoration some shots look better than others but it’s still a solid restoration nonetheless.

Audio Track: Moroccan Arabic. How does it sound? A nice clean track that is especially lively during the music sequences.

* A poster/booklet featuring credits and an essay by author Sally Shafto.
* A 2013 intro by Martin Scorsese
* “On Trances”- This 18 minute extra contains film clips and interviews with band member Omar Sayed, producer Izza Genini, director Ahmed El Maanouni and Martin Scorsese who talk about the music and Nass el Ghiwane

May 5, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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