Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch's Les Chevaux De Dieu (God's Horses) which premiered at Cannes 2012, is Morocco's entry for Best Foreign Language Film consideration at the Academy Awards this year.
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 next screen at the Austin Film Festival, with Demme shepherding its travels.
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,” shares an enthusiastic Demme.
The film was reviewed very well after its Cannes 2012 debut, although its POV (showing that the suicide bombers were victims themselves) might be what's been (in part) keeping distributors away over the last 15 months. Or maybe not.
The Hollywood Reporter called it an...
... Engrossing, realistic study of a Moroccan slum and how it becomes a breeding ground for young terrorists.
... this is less a film about terrorists than an intimate portrait of boys growing up in a toxic environment. All the non-pro actors turn in natural performances... Tech work is high quality throughout...
And Variety had this to say about the film:
... the pic delves into a shantytown atmosphere of machismo, wounded pride and powerlessness, which collectively act as a petri dish for fanaticism. By spending considerable time on milieu and the friends as kids, Ayouch sets his film apart, delineating personalities that avoid the cookie-cutter repetition seen elsewhere. "Horses" will trot confidently into Euro arthouses.
And maybe soon, it'll do the same in American arthouses, with Demme's assistance.
I'm obviously very interested and curious to see this, and hope it makes its way to New York eventually.
I uncovered 3 clips from the film, which you can watch below: