“Le Grand Voyage” (2004, France/Morocco/Bulgaria/Turkey, directed by Ismaël Ferroukhi, 108 min.)
This story of a father-son road trip highlights the deep generational and cultural gaps between a modern young French-Moroccan preparing for his college entrance exams in France (Réda, played by Nicolas Cazalé) and his devoutly religious father (played by Mohamed Majd) who demands that his son drive him to Mecca for the Hajj. They travel through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria and Jordan before arriving in Saudi Arabia (seven languages are spoken in the film). They meet a number of interesting characters along the way, but mostly they work at understanding each other better. Some of the scenes were actually filmed in Mecca. While the Saudi government had previously permitted documentary crews to film in Mecca, this was the first fiction feature permitted to film during the Hajj. The director said that while filming in Mecca “no one looked at the camera, people didn’t even seem to see the crew – they were in another world.”