Hicham Ayouch: “I hope that we embrace the spirit of the Spanish Movida movement”
Hicham Ayouch stands for a new generation of Moroccan filmmakers. Born in Paris, from Moroccan parents, he loves to create tension within his documentaries and movies. “Fissures”, his latest film, just came out in the French and Moroccan theaters. Focusing on reflections and hopes about conditions of making movies in Morocco before and after the Arab Spring…
Since the Arab Spring, what has changed in terms of film?
Hicham Ayouch: I don’t think the Arab Spring has brought changes in terms of the way films are shot, not in Morocco anyway, I don’t know about other countries. I can speak only for Morocco and my personal experience. I’d just begun making a documentary at the time of the outbreak of protests in Morocco and I applied to the Centre Cinématographique Marocain six months ago. And in fact they never gave me permission to film! So I shot the documentary illegally, notifying them that I was going to shoot the film. So I don’t think we’ve reached a stage of complete freedom yet. Egyptians and Tunisians, who have had their revolutions, may experience a Movida in terms of film culture. For us, I don’t get the feeling that it has awakened lots of people and talent.
I never use political or social context to make films. I haven’t made thousands of films, I’m a young director. But I made, for example, a film called Fissure, shot without a screenplay, which was also made without permission. It was a film in the Cassavetes or New Wave style, or so people said. In it, people drank a lot of alcohol and had a lot of sex. Anyway, it was released at the cinema. I don’t know if the Arab Spring will open things up culturally cinema-wise. It’s a question I can’t yet answer.
But Moroccan cinema, in terms of its administration, the system, I think that on the contrary they were a little bit afraid of the Arab Spring and didn’t necessarily go along with it. As I told you, they refused me permission to shoot. We’ll have to wait a while to find out if film directors or authors become a bit more ballsy, if they get a little more creative freedom, and see if new things come out.
It’s difficult to predict what will happen at a cultural level in the Arab world in the coming months. At the moment everybody is asking a lot of questions. There’s a degree of fantasy too. I hope that we embrace the spirit of the Spanish Movida movement. Culturally, the Arab world will experience what other countries must have gone through after their totalitarian regimes collapsed. In terms of religion and politics, I hope that there will be attacks on Islam because we need that as well. The problem is, when it comes to Islam or Islamism, they are two different things. It has always been Westerners who have made criticisms in that respect until now. We in the Arab-Muslim world have been afraid, and many artists and intellectuals shied away from that. It’s much more interesting and constructive to criticize from within!
In fact, cinema in a country like Morocco is a very dangerous weapon, as are images in general. Because a country like Morocco has a 40% rate of illiteracy among the population. So for the regime, images are very dangerous because even if an illiterate cannot read a book, he can understand a picture. That’s why they’re so pernickety. Maybe “pernickety” isn’t the word.. That’s why they are so authoritarian, so narrow minded and obtuse when it comes to giving permission film. It is because they are afraid we will say certain things. But when a film director takes his camera and his courage in his hands and shoots a film, he has to face the consequences afterwards.
Morocco as a country is not like Syria, where you get shot at by the army. You have to keep things in perspective. You can have problems with the police, you can have problems with the DST (“Direction de la surveillance du territoire”), who can have you under surveillance while you film, but it never reaches the levels of terror and suffering that people endure in Syria.
So I hope that the system in Morocco, the regime and the Centre Cinématographique Marocain, which is a facade for the regime, will have the intelligence to follow the movements currently underway, the history being made, and give more freedom to the people who want to tell stories – any stories, not just the ones they are well disposed to!
What is your personal definition of “democracy”?
Hicham Ayouch: To quote Coluche, or Godot, (editor’s note: it was Coluche), so that it isn’t personal: “Dictatorship is ‘shut your mouth’. Democracy is ‘keep on talking’”.
No model of democracy is a utopian or perfect model. In countries that have freedom of expression and where individual liberties are more respected, as in Western countries, generally speaking, those same western countries are not really democracies because they can take the liberty of bombing countries like Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, which had done nothing to them.
So obviously as an artist, I would be less subject to political diktats in France, where, say, my freedom of expression would be more important than in Morocco. But in France, there are also economic diktats. There’s a great deal of mass media which belong to arms dealers and big corporations, so there’s an economic dictatorship and an economic censure that does not speak its name.
The really interesting thing now about what’s happening with the Arab revolution and all the protest movements it is that in 10, 5, or 2 years’ time, a lot of things are bound to come out of it on an artistic level, because battles, vital battles, are being waged in these countries: battles of life and death, battles of survival, battles for freedom, are going on in these countries. So writers and filmmakers are bound to produce some interesting work. Indeed in Europe, none of the writing is interesting anymore precisely because there are no more battles for survival, for life, for education, so people have no more stories to tell. Within the context of suffering, of great suffering and war… It’s no coincidence that the cultural eras in France and Europe were richest right after the first and second world wars, and so I really think some beautiful things will emerge!
Interview: Sabine Lange
Hicham AYOUCH – Biographie
Hicham Ayouch was born in Paris in 1976, from Moroccan parents. He studied journalism and started writing and shooting for several French channels and Moroccan institutions. In 2005, he wrote the script of the movie Samba do Maazouz, and, a year later, shot his first short film, Bombllywood. He then left France and settled in Morocco, where he started shooting for local televisions. In 2006, he shot Les Reines du Roi, a documentary film describing the place of women in the Moroccan society. He then directed his first full-length fiction pictures, Heart Edges, which got very good reviews from different sources, including Variety. His next documentary, entitled Poussières d’anges is about disabled young children in Morocco. His second fiction feature film, Fissures, was written and shot in 2008. It was released in France this year. He’s currently working on turning his first written script, Samba do Maazouz, into a movie.blog comments powered by Disqus