Price: $310.00

    Code: 2290

    Directed by David Shadrack Smith and Charlotte Mangin
    2007, 57 Minutes
    Purchase: $310 Classroom Rental: $125

    When a group of Moroccan street children are invited to take part in a treehouse building workshop, they find themselves unexpectedly transformed. Facing difficult choices in their lives - whether to emigrate illegally to nearby Europe or cope with limited prospects for the future in Tangier - the treehouse they construct, under the guidance of an American architect, takes on symbolic significance. An inspiring tale of childhoods lost and regained, Tangier Treehouse offers a timely and intimate window into the world of Arab youth.

    This documentary gives voice to three troubled teenagers who reveal their stories in moving detail: Amine Dahbi, a 16 year old, ran away from home to escape abuse from his mother. He spent many months sniffing glue, begging, and sleeping in the streets, before moving into a shelter for street children. Elias Guemmah, 15, has lost both of his parents. His mother passed away and it has been years since he heard from his father, who abandoned him to emigrate to Europe. Age 15, Omar Bakkali is a junior high school drop-out who soon emerges as the star pupil of the treehouse workshop.

    All three grew up in Tangier, a cosmopolitan city at the northernmost tip of Africa. Unemployment runs as high as 30%, and more than 30,000 illegal Moroccan immigrants a year use the port of Tangier as a jumping off point to Europe, tantalizingly close across the Straits of Gibraltar.

    Hundreds of street children lurk at the port, waiting to hide in the underbelly of 18-wheeler trucks and ride the ferry boats to Europe. It is dangerous work: many die every year, and even if they make it across the 14 km stretch of water, the chances of being caught and sent home are great. Such legions of restless Arab youth also become prime targets for extremists recruiting for their ranks, as evidenced by the involvement of a number of Moroccans in recent terrorist acts in Spain and beyond.
    As Amine, Elias, Omar and the other kids begin to build their treehouse, they confront their concepts of home, family, and their own futures. It is a unique chance for these under-privileged boys to enhance their skills as carpenters. But the workshop - led by Roderick Romero (one of the world's leading treehouse architects, Romero has built elaborate structures in trees for luminaries such as Sting, Donna Karan, and Julianne Moore) - quickly takes on new depths as the treehouse itself evolves into a powerful metaphor inspired by the boys' personal histories: a boat 25 feet up in the tree, overlooking the very Strait which offers both dream and peril. As it takes the shape, so too does the boys' ultimate embrace of renewed hope for life at home.

    With its vibrant cinematography and cross-cultural blend of languages and music, the film explores the borders between North Africa and the West, between the Arab world and America, and between those who have and those who have not. Highlighting the struggles and aspirations of down-and-out boys on the brink of manhood, Tangier Treehouse is an inspirational story for anyone who has ever dreamed of climbing a tree and transporting themselves to another reality.

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    “A feel-good documentary…. captures an uplifting 10-day workshop led by two New York transplants in the title city’s Darna shelter and trade school. Darna hosts 170 boys and empowers them through training in a self-chosen trade.” - Al Jadid