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Moroccan Director Of 'Horses Of God' Preps Sci-Fi Drama Set In Futuristic Fresco Of Arab Society

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by Tambay A. Obenson
November 21, 2013 2:06 PM
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Nabil Ayouch

Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch's Les Chevaux De Dieu (Horses of God) which premiered at Cannes 2012, is Morocco's entry for Best Foreign Language Film consideration at the Academy Awards for 2014. 

The film is loosely based on the terrorist attacks that took place in Casablanca on May 13, 2003. Ayouch was shocked by these attacks that were committed by a group of kids from a neighborhood that he knew very well, and with this film, he wanted to essentially humanize the suicide bombers, and show that they themselves are/were also victims.

Jonathan Demme has officially attached his name to the film, hoping to help its Oscar chances, but also to ensure that it's distributed in the USA - both are good things!

The film, which I've yet to see, as it hasn't made it to my neck of the woods yet, will see Demme shepherding its travels through the festival and awards screenings circuit over the next few months.

Ayouch, however, certainly isn't sitting on his hands, waiting for that film to gain traction. As any wise filmmaker would at this point, he's already prepping his next project, and an intriguing one too.

Ayouch has revealed that for his follow-up to Horses of God, he'll change genres to make a sci-fi film about how the Arab world will look fifty years from now, which he describes as a major project and a “futuristic fresco of Arab society.” 

His Horses of God writer Jamal Belmahi, will pen the script for the currently untitled film which will tell the tale of a group of privileged elite living in high-security enclaves, completely cut off from the poor masses.

It sounds like the class struggles tackled in another sci-fi film released this summer, Elysium?

Ayouch told Variety: “The dictatorship regimes in the Arab countries diverted attention away from the struggle between rich and poor, because people were more concerned by their fundamental rights [...] But in the wake of the Arab Spring, we believe that the Arab world will now be more focused on these questions and it will be more difficult to use Islam as a tool of domination over coming decades.” 

He shares that he and his production team have enlisted the help of architects to design the future city that the film will be set in, adding that they will also likely incorporate lots of matte paintings and 3D special effects for outside shots.

Regarding his current film, the drama Horses of God, Demme's interest in the film begun after he met the filmmaker, Ayouch, at the Marrakesh Film Festival last December where it screened. 

”Horses Of God is simply one of the very most powerful pictures that I have ever seen... Extraordinarily gripping and moving, the cinematic style is really breathtaking. I can’t remember being so blown away by the marriage of visuals and storytelling since the first time I saw Marty Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Bertolucci’s The Conformist way back then,” shared an enthusiastic Demme.

The film was reviewed very well after its Cannes 2012 debut, although its POV (showing how suicide bombers can be victims themselves) might be what's been (in part) keeping distributors away over the last 15 months. Or maybe not.

“Jonathan is putting his publicity machine at the service of the film, which has been absolutely amazing,” said Ayouch. “My agents at William Morris believe that ‘Horses of God’ is a great entry door to help them find funding for my new films."

We certainly hope so for his sake! 

Some of those "new films" he mentions also include, in addition to the above sci-fi pic, a docudrama titled Expired, co-produced between Morocco, the U.K., Sweden, Germany, Belgium and France, and Simply Juana – a biopic about a woman in Tangiers in the 1950’s, who left her husband, children, name and religion to marry a young Muslim fisherman to help him in the country's then independence struggle.

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