Asli's assured debut concerns three men - Said (El Hazmir), Ottman (Essghyr) and Ismail (El Hayani) - working in a restaurant in Casablanca. They've all come to the big city to support their impoverished families out in the snowy Moroccan wilds, but soon lose sight of their original intentions.
A favourite at Cannes in 2004, the director splits the action between three simple stories: one surrounding Said's wife's labour, one focusing on Ottman's prized horse (for whom he sends back bread scraps from the cafe the three men work in, to prevent the horse being killed for meat) and another dealing with Ismail's fixation with an expensive pair of shoes. Each reveals the protagonists' follies with verve and invention, moving smoothly from light comedy to heartbreaking tragedy.
The subject matter could so easily have been dreary, but is imbued with a strong sense of freshness and emotional truth, as well as a dash of humour. That said, don't expect to walk out laughing.
Asli has produced another work of considerable emotional weight with the slightest of hand, proving himself one of the most valuable contributors to Arab filmmaking.