” Bad deeds are humans’ productions, not movies”


 

Mohammed BENAZIZ
                            Filmmaker

 ICEM:  Thank you Mr. Benaziz for having accepted our invitation, and for your sincere encouragement for the Moroccan youth to work in the field of cinema. We actually know your big interest in Moroccan cinema, let’s start with this question: What is the current situation of Moroccan cinema?

   Mr. Benaziz: The Moroccan cinema is still young, and has not got older yet. So, it is not only in a good health, but it is also enduring a rush phase; it may fall, but it rises and pursues its journey.

ICEM: Can we say that Moroccan cinema is under a developmental state? Do you see any positive signs compared with other Maghrebin cinemas ?

  Mr. Benaziz: Answering this question lies in comparing two situations; while one relates to what the case was in the past, the other concerns what it should be in the present. This comparison leads to two different perspectives in reading the past and the present of the Moroccan cinema. For the realists, Moroccan cinema is in a continual development and reaches national/international festivals, and it occupies, constantly, an important position in the media, and thus are satisfied with the current situation: The number of films is a very compelling proof, if we compare, for instance, the Moroccan cinema between 1990 and 2011. On the contrary, there are some other whose views are idealists based in the sense that the model they wanted has not come into existence. Of these two perspectives, some attack what has been achieved for technical reasons and others advance their critical view on moral grounds. From these two vantages the assessment starts. I belong to the first team, and I consider that the Moroccan cinema is on the right path.

ICEM: Do you predict, Mr. Benaziz, the decrease of the hot shots with the arrival of Mr. Khalfi at the head of the Ministry of Communication and Media, or is the case that, due to the intransigence of some directors as well as hot shots which are believed to be an integral part  of their films raw materials, no change can be expected to that effect? In addition to this, do you see that Moroccan cinema is influencing and getting influenced by its environment, or is it that the films’ themes do not meet the audience interests ?

 Mr. Benaziz: We have to agree on the following: bad deeds are humans’ productions, not movies’. This is clear and cannot be reversed. If directors shot marital infidelity, this is because prophet Dauad did it with one his soldiers’ wives, after he sent him in the forefront of the army to die. The same had been done with Zulekha Aziz wife when she fell in love with prophet Yussef.

  After this short reminder, I go back to recall what will happen after the victory of the Islamists in the elections? I think that the hot shots will be decreased. Directors will be trained on self-censorship to adapt to the logos of chastity. In my view, it will push toward artistic condensation. This will raise the level of Moroccan films. This experience has passed with the Iranian cinema after the Islamic Revolution. Censorship incite creativity much more than when everything is permissible.

  ICEM: We know that Benaziz has worked with words to voice his ideas (journalism), and his face is familiar in many national newspapers. What is the secret of moving from expressing in words into expressing in images and sound ? 

  Mr. Benaziz: Through my reading of books about cinema and watching movies writing about them, I came to conclusions which would be of no importance if written. They had to be experienced instead as they fit the camera rather than the pen. I have worked systematically to reconfigure myself every five years

  ICEM: In the same context, in your film Broken Heart, it was the first time you have interlaces images with sounds to produce this film that touches on one of the most prominent topics in the contemporary history of Morocco, the terrorist events of 16 May 2003. Why was this choice ?

Mr. Benaziz: For four reasons:

  The first one is the fact that May 16, 2003 bombings were taken heavily up in the political, media and religious arenas, but not addressed by the camera. This choice was dictated by the need to get the history of Morocco into the snapshot, to take a historical dimension. This is a political reason.

  The second reason, which is artistic, is that it is easy to give a story an output, when the content of the story is easy to be narrated. It is useful to work on telling stories on topics involving a large audience. This reduces the need to explain the large context of the story. The director can express, easily, his point of view when the context is clear to the spectators.

  Thirdly, to confirm that it is possible to film new scenarios that go beyond consumed topics, such as sex and the naked street, to deep matters that touch upon the whole social life of the Moroccans.

  The fourth reason is to show that these events are the expression of a prevailing mode of thinking that must be highlighted to be dismantled. Broken Heart gave the floor to those whom I do not agree with. I pushed their logic to its high limits to explode and unfold.

   ICEM: That’s true. For example, different mentalities exist in a single classroom; there are students who are conservative while others are not. This reflects the symbiosis of ideologies and beliefs that occur in society as a whole. Hence, the instructor and school play a pivotal role in the preparation of a platform that would accept all differences. In this sense, does Mr. Benaziz believe in the role of the Moroccan school?

  Mr. Benaziz: I certainly do; firstly, because it receives everyday more than six million students and, secondly, because it is the heart of society; it interacts with its surrounding and works in connection with it. As far as my movie is concerned, it is an adaptation of a short story I wrote in the same week when the events of May 16, 2003 took place.

    ICEM: You have recently made two interesting films: Salt of Love and The Dream for Hamburger. Are you going to stress the same values- which we have evoked- in your upcoming movies?

  Mr. Benaziz: Though my films are the touchstone of myself, there always exists a certain idiosyncratic continuity which stems from the viewpoint I adopt and from the path I have been following. I consider myself a short story writer; all the three movies I have made so far have the structure of a short story. That structure unifies their form. The difference lies in the focus; in each movie I focus on a certain element. For example, in A Broken Heart, I examine the thesis and its anti-thesis by means of arguing. In the two last movies, arguing is done through sequences and focus is put on sequencing and the camera movements.

   ICEMAccording to you, what do the titles of the last movies mean? 

Mr. Benaziz: Well, I prefer not to give any explanation to my works since that would be the only official reading. So, I tell the story using my camera and give the viewer the freedom to interpret it.

   ICEM : You wrote on your facebook page the following:

“Twenty hours before the casting of the second and third movie, I feel a queer quietude dominating me. I read some passages from Kalila wa Dimna to feel the process of narration in it. I also read from Al Mutanabbi’s Diwan (as footnoted by Al Akiri) in order to sense the power of poetic imagery….” After the casting is over, do you think that these touches of literature are present in your last works? And will you describe your experience?

   Mr. Benaziz: The judgment whether the literary touches exist or not is left to the viewers. As for the experience, it was enjoyable and different from the first one. In the first movie, it was dialogue which determined the sequencing of events. Conversely, in the two last movies, dialogue was reduced to the minimum and the event controlled the camera angles and movement. I also discovered that the crew I chose from high school have improved throughout the twenty months between A Broken Heart and the two other movies.

  ICEM: How do you perceive the lately published cinematic magazines, and how do you think they can raise people’s interest in the 7th Art?

  Mr. Benaziz: There is no cinema without a high level of cinematic culture. One should first know about literature, films and the methods of directors…there should also be discussions on cinematic issues. There is a long, hard way which needs patience and training if one wants to have a ‘cine file’. Magazines are the keys to making that ‘cine file’. Currently, only one cinematic magazine is published in Morocco entitled Cinemag which, despite financial constraints, follows the news of Moroccan cinematic issues.

  ICEM: Thank you very much Mr. Benaziz for your time.

Interviewed by Hicham MOUSSA
           ICEM Editor

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