Nabil Ayouch

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This 39-year-old filmmaker has already directed three full-length feature films and produced more than 30 movies. Not to mention the commercials he has created and the TV series he made for Arte Television. Nabil Ayouch is also supporting cinematographic creativity in South Mediterranean countries, through “Meda Films Development”.

 

Biography of Mr. Nabil Ayouch


  • Nabil Ayouch is born in 1969 in Paris of a Moroccan father and a French mother. After three years of theatre classes with Sarah Boreo and Michel Granvale, he turned towards film directing.
  • In 1992, he directed “The Blue Rocks of the Desert”, his first short-length feature film with Jamel Debbouze. He then made two other short movies: “Hertzienne Connexion” and “Vendeur de Silence”, both multi awarded in various international film festivals.
  • In 1997, his first full-length fiction “Mektoub” sets a historical record box office in Morocco, selling about 350,000 tickets. The film was also the Official Moroccan Selection for the 1999 Academy Awards. Nabil Ayouch’s second full-length feature film entitled “Ali Zaoua”, also a great success, received more than 40 awards and was the Official Moroccan Selection for the 2000 Academy Awards.
  • In 2001, Nabil Ayouch co-founded the G.A.R.P. (Group of Authors, Directors, and Producers). In 2003, he founded the Moroccan Coalition for Cultural Diversity.
  • In 2002, he directed “One last minute of sun”, a feature length movie from the collection “Masculine-Feminine”, for the channel Arte.
  • In 2005, Nabil Ayouch implemented a project entitled “Film Industry, Made in Morocco” and produced about 30 full-length feature films within the framework of this initiative. He then set up, with the backing of the European Union, “Meda Films Development”, a structure who follows producers and writers of 10 countries of the south Mediterranean in the development phase of their projects.
  • In 2008, he became one of the members of the CNC 's “Avance sur Recettes”.
  • “Whatever Lola Wants (2008)”, his 4th feature film, received the Grand Prix of the National Film Festival and was distributed in more than 30 countries.
  • This year, Nabil Ayouch created and directed the closing show of “The World Economic Forum” of Davos, Switzerland.
  • He also launched in 2009 a project entitled “Images pour tous” that aims at building digital movie theaters (ten in 2009) in rural and peripheral areas.

Answers of Mr. Navil Ayouch


1. Based on what standards does "Meda Films Development" choose the writers and producers to support?

Writers and producers are selected on the basis of a film project, which is examined by an independent jury, according to an evaluation model that we have conceived. Of course, this criteria-model takes into consideration the projects’ artistic qualities, its feasibility, its consistency (the artistic/financial adequacy), as well as the profile of the partners carrying out the project. We thought that it would be more relevant to provide suitable solutions to the problems that filmmakers and movie professionals are facing nowadays in South Mediterranean countries, by offering concrete case studies rather than global solutions. It should be noted that this project started in January 2006 and ended in December 2008 within the framework of the “Euromed Audiovisual II” program.


2. Do you think that what you have accomplished during your stay in France could have been achieved in Morocco?

We succeed in achieving here and there various actions, because we believe in them. However, we endeavor to take into consideration the fluctuating and specific environment characterizing each country. France is a well-constructed country that offers a great structure for work in the field of cinematography, as well as a wide range of funding sources. In this sense, the audiovisual system, particularly the French cinematography, is cleverly designed. And stakeholders’ obligations (such as institutions, TV channels, etc.) reinforce the system. However, the social framework of this type of European country does not provide enough space for creativity and non-standardized projects. This is why, ten years ago, I decided to live in Morocco where I was able to carry out a series of innovative projects in the fields of training, production, movie theaters… in a country where, of course, lots of things need to be improved, but which are highly stimulating.

3. You like movies as do a lot of people. But, as you know, there are less and less movie theaters in Morocco as in other countries in the region. This is due, among other reasons, to DVD pirating. Do you think this situation will change in the future, and how?


I hope, and I think it is possible. The first results of the “Association Marocaine de Lutte contre le Piratage (AMLP)” that I have created in 2008 in collaboration with many movie, television, music and computer professionals are very encouraging. That means that a concerted action between the civil society and the government can lead to positive outcomes, if we take into consideration the overall problem. Thus, fighting against piracy should include a repression dimension, but also a communication action among the general public, a social dimension (through the reconversion of pirates) a commercial aspect (implementation of new distribution channels), as well as legal measures. These five mainstays constitute the basis of the AMLP strategy and I think they are valid all around the Mediterranean. One thing is sure: no country can pretend to be able to reach a real economic takeoff without copyrights protection, which is not only a fundamental human right, but also an efficient productive and fruitful lever. Another thing that we should believe in, to stop looking the other way: fighting again piracy cannot be achieved successfully without a real involvement of each concerned country, and without a use of all necessary tools. Thinking that there could be an alternative solution is an illusion.

4. Why do you think we lack in the Arab world documentaries of the BBC standard? Is it a matter of budget?


As for all the other sections of the audiovisual and cinematographic market, it is a matter of budget, talents and training. The lack of funding should stop being a pretext to justify the low-quality of work in Southern countries. We witnessed the making of splendid movies in all parts of the world with small budgets. On the contrary, we saw that enormous Hollywoodian budgets can lead to bad movies. European countries succeeded in building their image industries thanks to training policies drawn up and implemented since decades. Thus, how can we imagine that countries in which there is only one or two, and sometimes zero education programs in the field of image such as producing, directing, script writing, photography and sound engineering… can give birth to a sufficient number of high-quality movies, whether in fiction or documentary? In this sense, film industry and TV production are an economic sector comparable with others. Imagine, for a while, the state of your economy without business or engineering schools…

5. I am impressed with the career you have started so young. I am 24 years old and did not fulfill my dreams yet (in this field). Do you think I still have the opportunity to realize something?


I forgot who once said: “Pray so that good things will happen to you the latest possible”. But please don’t be impressed. I have a slow maturity process, and when I look back at my career, especially at the period preceding my beginning, I could say that there are a lot of things that I would have done in a different way, if I had the possibility to. Take your time to learn, observe and feed yourself. It is a blessed time that you would hardly have the opportunity to obtain again, since it is this time that will allow you to be well-prepared for the future. There is no age requirement to accomplish one’s dreams.

6. Why do you think Arab film-makers in the West did not succeed in giving a correct image of the Arab world, whereas film-makers in the Arab world put forward the Arab cause, such as in the famous series “Al Ijtiyah”?


I don’t agree with you. On the contrary, I think that some Arab filmmakers established in Europe or in the United States gave the true image of the Arab world. I cannot cite them all, because they are numerous, but I suggest that you see (or see again) a documentary entitled “Reel bad Arabs” about the way Arabs are being mistreated by TV and cinema production in the United States. This documentary is made by Jack Shaheen, an Arab who lives in the US. I can also cite the name of Moroccan filmmakers residing in France, such as Ismail Feroukhi or Hassan Legzouli, whose movies gave a real image of the Arab society. Maybe they were not quick to “highlight causes” in their artworks, as filmmakers living in the Arab world did, according to your opinion, though I am not so sure about that. If this were the case, then this would be most probably related to the geographical and mental distance that separates filmmakers from their countries of origin. I lived for a long time outside Morocco, and I can tell that this distance can give us a form of objectivity that makes us more cynical in the way we defend certain causes. In this sense, movies made by Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman (who lives in Paris) are a perfect example of how we can defend a cause in a subtle and clever way.

7. To what extent do you think film-making can support and strengthen Euro-Mediterranean relations? And what subjects should be handled to serve this purpose?

The way of building sustainable and solid cinematographic industries in the South border of the Mediterranean is a major factor of evolution and stability in our countries. Culture is at the heart of cross-identity relationships that constitute a specified population and give it a certain harmony. Cinema is one of the main cultural vehicles that allow expressing and transmitting ideas. At this point, we get the core of the cultural diversity principle, to which I am particularly attached, and I have actually fought to promote it during the process of ratification of the UNESCO convention. It is in the interest of Europe, as much as it is in our countries’ interest to build solid cinematographic industries. This autonomy will allow us to be witnesses of our societies’ evolution and to express ourselves with the freedom provided by an industry anchored on subjects that are close to our hearts.

8. How can we present a positive image of the Arab world to our European neighbors? How do you look at our writers and artists who disseminate a negative image of the Arab world in their works?

First of all, the artist’s role is not to promote a “positive image” of his country, neither of other countries. This is the role of touristic guides. Artists are here to express their own thoughts and to give their view regarding this or that subject, through their artwork. I also think that trying our best to give a positive image can have a negative boomerang effect on what we intend to defend, because, neither the Western, nor the Easter public cannot be taken in. If the objective behind an artwork is to depict an image, it is highly preferable to give the real one instead of the positive one. The Arab world is full of imperfections, as it is the case of other worlds. Yet, we have often been incapable of seeing ourselves in the mirror and speaking of ourselves without inhibitions. And when somebody is bold enough to do it, he is immediately considered as a traitor. Is that the case in Europe or in the United States? I don’t think so, especially when I see the way international filmmakers mistreat their societies and reveal their defects. If we are not sufficiently capable of auto-criticism in order to give a real image of what we really are, then others will do it, which will lead to catastrophic results that can be seen in the image of Arabs in some Hollywoodian movies.