Escapism via movies: possible or not?
The story of an ordinary boy, Youssef, who dreams of big things in his life.
Jibraeil Aatif Anwar
November 5, 2016
Who would’ve thought that even people, with the smallest of lives, had big dreams? Many people can relate to this, from Walt Disney to Steve Jobs. All of them were small in standing, yet their big dreams got them where they are today (or, in these two men’s cases, were). We are here to talk about such a situation, about the story of a little boy named Youssef, who didn’t exactly have it easy. He was poor, and doing his best to live his life in the slums of Hay An Najat, Casablanca, Morocco. And yet, Youssef was an escapist, who lived through movies, and dreamt of being the greatest actor (and football player) ever. What exactly was his life like, though? Let’s find out….
You see, Youssef lived in his house with his mother, and he didn’t exactly have the best living conditions. The roof was made of corrugated tin, and had to be held down by rocks for it to stay put. His house was down a narrow dirt path, surrounded by many other houses in similar conditions. There was only one room, and it didn’t have any windows, either! The question still remains, though: could Youssef be able to survive these terrible living conditions? The answer is yes, and he did have some things to be grateful about. For one, his neighbourhood didn’t have to suffer from a great drought like the others had to. Second of all, he and his mother were able to handle the bad living conditions considerably well, utilizing methods to keep their house intact, trying their best to keep their things away from outside conditions, and keeping a good sense of optimism along the way. Thirdly, Youssef had… the movies. Movie is only one word, but it had a lot of meaning for Youssef. Movies were his passion, a way of escaping the hardships brought about by real life, but also his ambition (his lifelong dream was to be an actor). The adventure, the wonder, the action, the intrigue, the romance, the drama, the humour — without these seven things, a movie can never be enjoyable, let alone interesting. Yet, thanks to these seven things present in these delightful delicacies, Youssef successfully navigated the treacherous waters of that giant cesspool known as real life.
Youssef, along with being a poor boy, was also an ordinary boy. He did what every child usually does: go to school, play sports, have a dream, and do the best one can to survive. He ate, just like any good boy should, and he took care of his mother, like any good child should. Acting and football were his passions, and he fought very hard in order to get a prestigious career in acting, as well as gain the necessary physique (via football) in order to be considered qualified enough for his job. Youssef also preferred to live an independent life, and always felt bothered by his mother always treating him like an eight year-old, rather than the eighteen year-old he knew he was, and indeed was! But most importantly, however, he did something every week when he felt bored; he took a coin from his mother’s purse, went to the nearby Star Cinema, and watched a movie that played for the week, intending to watch whatever movie would come next week. This routine, this never-ending cycle of doom and gloom (of the best kind), brightened every area of Youssef’s body until you could see the sunlight radiating from him; he loved it that much. What did he watch, you may ask? Maybe a little Hong Kong action films? Perhaps a smidgen of Bollywood romances? How about Egyptian dramas? And is it possible for anyone to forget those world-famous, awe-inspiring American blockbusters? Whatever movie it was, Youssef watched them all — and he loved them. They were his life-blood, his driving force — the force that kept him alive, that lived in very cell of his body (much like the Force in Star Wars). It is especially because of this, that Youssef so passionately acted in the only play his school had, pursued acting with a passion, and played football to develop an actor’s physique. Isn’t it amazing how much movies can change people’s lives, when adults are always claiming that they’re bad for your health, and that they waste too much time? It does beg the question, though: why and how does Youssef benefit from these movies?
It’s pretty simple to articulate: Youssef is miserable. He’s lonely. He yearns for bigger things. What else is a little boy to do? What else is he to pursue? Should he go onto the streets and dance like a monkey for money? No, because times are tough for the lad. Should he read books like the smart kids do? No, because it’s clear that Youssef is not as obsessed with his studies as they are. Movies are his escapism, because they are boundless. They perfectly capture your imagination in the form of moving pictures, making you pleased until you faint of happiness… though, that certainly isn’t the case for Youssef, who is able to remain in one piece after observing these colourful escapades across the desert, sea and whatnot. When you’ve lost your father, your mother is trying her best to make a living for the both of you, and you are struggling to survive, it isn’t hard for you to latch onto the closest hobby you can find, and call it “escapism” from real life. Do you ever think to yourself and wonder, “Why does my life have so many restrictions?” If so, then the exact same case is presented here, where, above all else, Youssef adores the fantasy of the movies, how unreal all of it is; yet, so charming. They do sometimes portray worlds that have their own sufferings taking place in them, but they also portray a sense of resolve over these issues, a triumph of good over evil. Youssef relates to this, because he, too, wishes that his life were like these movies, that he could be the brave, dashing hero who fights the evil dragon (real life) to rescue the princess in the castle (freedom). And, so, he watches these movies, and he’s surely having the time of his life watching them, latching onto them like they’re his stuffed animals.
And, so, this is the story of a humble, ordinary boy by the name of Youssef, who lives with his mother in the slums of Hay An Najat, Casablanca, Morocco. He lives in the poorest of conditions, but that never deters him from being hopeful, and keeping an iron resolve. He lives life as he can, remains a good, obedient boy towards his mother, wants to pursue a career in acting (as well as footballing), and escapes real life via movies, whenever he’s feeling stressed out. Is this interesting to hear about? To pitch in the editors’ opinions, they would say yes, but we’ll leave your opinions to be decided by you. We’ll also leave you to wonder about what this story might teach you; is real life really as bad as it’s been presented? Is escapism the best way out? Would you feel persistence in surviving a life with such sparse conditions? The things people wonder… and this quote by Neil Gaiman might help you better decide your opinion: “People talk about escapism as if it’s a bad thing… Once you’ve escaped, once you come back, the world is not the same as when you left it. You come back to it with skills, weapons, knowledge you didn’t have before. Then, you are better equipped to deal with your current reality”.