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Tangier to Casablanca
Film art for Philip Baites' "Tangier to Casablanca" with comments from jurors.

While studying in Morocco, UT student Philip Baites wrote a song about his experiences, Tangier to Casablanca.” He then created a music video based on the song—a project that’s now one of three finalists in the IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival 

The film festival received 96 submissions, which were narrowed down to three finalists by a panel of jurors. Entries are intended to capture the spirit of studying abroad, what it meant to the student, and how it redefined their world.   

Baites, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, attended Middle Tennessee State University before transferring to UT as a sophomore. He is now a senior majoring in French and world business with a minor in Arab studies.  

He received a prestigious Boren Scholarship to spend the 2017–18 academic year studying Arabic in Morocco, a location he chose after learning about the country’s mix of the French and Arabic languages.   

Two months after Baites arrived in Morocco, his host mother, Doha Mouhib, received news that her father had passed away while traveling in Canada.   

“It was surreal to walk through that grieving process with them,” said Baites. “But looking back, I believe that that experience solidified the bond we now share, and I really wanted to make my host mother the focus of my film while sharing her story.”  

The six-minute film begins with Baites on the train from Tangier to Casablanca, symbolic of his nine-month stay in Morocco and journeys from the desert to the ocean. Scenes of Baites playing the guitar and singing are interspersed with clips of local children playing and his host mother walking through a town, past a cemetery, and to the ocean’s edge, where he joins her and they embrace.  

The lyrics lament, “I am here. You are there. There’s a couple thousand miles between us. I am here. You are there. There’s an ocean in between.”  

Tangier to Casablanca is a story of pain, joy, longing, and journeys intertwining,” Baites explained in his film narrative on the contest website. His host mother’s loss, he said, ultimately “led to a bond to be formed between us, while also teaching me a valuable lesson. We are all on a journey. And it’s not the places or sites seen that have the lasting impact on us. It’s the people.”    

Album art for Baites' "Tangier to Casablanca".
Album art for Baites’ “Tangier to Casablanca”.

While it’s not the first song he’s written, Baites said,Tangier to Casablancais the first one he’s been able to completely finish and release on music streaming platforms.  

“Writing and releasing this song was never something I planned on doing before I left for Morocco,” Baites added. “Hopefully there are more songs to be written—but if not, having this song and film as a reminder of the journey I was on and the people who were special to me is something I will cherish for a lifetime.”   

On November 7, Baites will attend the Film Festival event at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago for the announcement of the grand prize winner, decided by public vote. As a finalist, Baites received $500. The grand prize winner will be awarded an additional $1,000 at the event.   

Voting for the film festival is open until November 5. 

Media coverage: News Sentinel, Christopher Salvemini, Oct. 14; WATE, Bridgette Bjorlo, Oct. 16


Amy Blakely (885-974-5034, 

Lindsey Owen (865-974-2225,