Dr. Azlarab Alaoui ”I always find it difficult to talk about myself, because I always love to let my work speak on behalf of me

Filmmaker              Interviewed: Hicham MOUSSA


   ICEM: International Cinematic Board welcomes you Mr. Alaoui and appreciates very much accepting our invitation to have such an interview with us. This interview is devoted, particulary, to your short film Izorane and woud also love to have a look at your personal career. To start with your career, why do Mr. Alaoui prefer to write in images and sounds ? 

   Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: I always find it difficult to talk about myself, because I always love to let my work speak on behalf of me. Azlarab Alaoui is a Moroccan film director, holder of a Ph.D. in Film Discourse, a professor of audiovisual communication at Mohammed V University in Rabat, and the founder of the Federation of Film Critics in Morocco. I have produced six short films which are:

  • Bidoza 
  • The Island of One Day
  • A Date in Oualili Rice Grains. 
  • Izorane. 
  • The Blind and the Gyspy.

And a film entitled Androman of Blood and Coal. Most of these productions were awarded national and international prizes. I have also produced a large number of documentary films and three television movies.

 ICEM: How did Mr. Alaoui come to the arena of filmmaking? What were your first inspirational films at the beginning of your experience?

  Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: I joined the audiovisual world for the first time as an assistant director with the Moroccan film director, Jilali Ferhati, in the production of some Moroccan films in 1992. Then, I had several trainings outside Morocco and I carried out studies in the field of film production in Canada, as well as some academic studies. I got a higher studies diploma in Film Criticism in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Film Discourse in 2001.

  ICEM: Actually, we have read many articles on your works and found that you started your career making documentaries for short films and then long ones. Do you think, Mr. Alaoui, such start-up basis is needed in one’s career? That is to say, to have a deep vision like the one we touch in your films, one must first go through the mentioned stages?

 Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: I think that a film director must meet a basic set of qualities to be successful. He should dedicate himself to his work and should also be knowledgeable. He should be familiar with the techniques of film production. Ultimately, he should be humane in the real sense of the word and let this quality show in his work. Perhaps, my artistic career in the field of documentary and short film production, television, poetry, literature and criticism has contributed significantly to what I am now, thanks God.

  ICEM: Allow me, Mr. Alaoui, to re-frame my question in this formula: what is the additional value behind making documentaries? 

  Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: Working in the industry of documentary films provides the film director with an artistic touch which derives its strength from the simulation of reality and the weaving of its strings with a mystical plot closer to divine serenity than the human reality with its different contradictions. The documentary film, then, is a deep work on community, its values, principles and contradictions and is, therefore, a reading of a permanent moving and flowing world through images.

  ICEM: Now, let us, Mr. Alaoui, focus on your film Izorane. We know that Izorane is a berber term which means in English “roots”. Why a berber title for your film?  I mean, was it done, basically, with regard to your background?

  Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: Before explaining the source of this Amazigh word, Izorane is a film which I always consider as a filmography of Amazigh Cinema. I have participated with this film in several national and international festivals and under the banner of Tamazight. All prizes, more than 20, granted to this film, were apriori designed for the international Amazigh Film. I am proud to be a Moroccan Arab Amazigh, and I should defend my identity. If you observe the movie of Androman, its title is also Amazigh and it was made on Amazigh soil. I believe that Amazigh patrimony is an endless treasure. The film of Izorane has offered me a lot in my professional life. It put me ahead with an international standing, as it was considered by the American website I’veseen.com one of the best ten movies of 2008 worldwide.

ICEM: Why do we have a silent Izorane? How was the task of narrating with only images? 

Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: Izorane is not a silent movie; it is rather a speaking one via images. Though its characters are speechless, the image was sufficient in addressing the world using its original language. The fact of not using words in the movie was a bet on writing a movie that speaks by itself, its structures, its rich visual components, and by its iconic semiology that contributes to the makeup of the story. Relying on this approach of writing was not easy; it was an application of what I have acquired during my academic studies in writing via the image, and, thanks God, I have succeeded in this challenge. In fact, the film has become a reference for the teaching of visual writing in many audiovisual colleges and universities.

  ICEM: Izorane is a fascinating short film revolving around the story of a failed mixed marriage which turned the life of a beautiful girl into hell. The girl, by her own choice or her father’s, decided to live in Morocco with her grandmother away from her mother. Later, an accident took place due to a call from the mother to the father which caused his death and the death of the girl afterwards. Here, one feels that you, Mr. Alaoui, put blame on the mother, though we do not know the reasons for their separation?

   Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: I do not condemn the mother nor even the idea of marrying foreign women. I am not qualified to condemn any social forms. I try only to report a profound humanitarian situation experienced by the grandmother and the girl who refused to live outside Morocco despite the potential therapeutic advantages that are out there. She was satisfied with the tenderness of her grandmother and the roots of her nation as a kind of existential Sufism and return to nature. Izorane is diving into human existence. It is a theosophic approach that relies on the basic components of nature and existence; it is not a superficial movie condemning and judging plain social problems.

ICEM: Mr. Alaoui, can’t we say that Izorane should bring back the girl to her mother «real roots actually» rather than to the masculine society of her father? Why Did you give preference to masculinity?

Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: I did not intend to give preference to patriarchy at the expense of maternity, which is considered to be the origin of all things and affiliations. I gave priority to the call of the soul by considering the girl and the grandmother as symbols of fertility and extension. The father was absent from the beginning; he was only a bridge connecting one life to another, which can be termed overcoming death. The human spirit call does not choose; it leads to its world without consulting anyone. This is illustrated in the girl’s clinging to the grandmother and weaving her own specific world that she was living in dreams.  Dreams, in my opinion, are always the beginning for knowing the truth.

 ICEM= Izorane is full of symbols which attract the viewer’s attention. Actually, a reviewer for ICM asked me to forward you this question: what significance did you want to put in the doll? 

  Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: The presence of the doll in Izorane was essential to the whole story. The doll is extracted from ice, from nature, and we know that there was ice everywhere in the beginning of the universe. The movie ends up by re-immersing the doll in water, then the ice melts and goes back to nature. It has an existential significance about the human journey as a whole and the journey of this girl that can be herself considered the buffeted doll by the whims of society. Her attachment to her roots enabled her to preserve her childhood. She was born, lived and died as a child.

  ICEM= The Village is given an awesome image, and though there is terrible coldness with suffering, it looks romantic and one feels the need to see and live in such places.  Clearly, you played on colors and music. One may wonder why we have only natural sounds; the wind, water, etc, except for one episode which was done with instruments? Also, why do we have Tamawate voices which certainly give a surplus effect with images? Can I say that Izorane was made silently to leave space to Tamawate within it ? 

 Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: For me, the location plays a crucial role in the plots of all my movies. In Izorane, it was the main character of the story. The choice of the location evokes august sanctity. It was, as mentioned before, the beginning of existence…in its cold rituals, in addition to the frigidity of the social relation between the husband and his wife and the intimacy between the grandmother and the girl that was portrayed in the warmth of the house and its numerous fervent candles and its warm waters running behind. Hence the choice of the location was never arbitrary. As for the music and sound effects, I deliberately turned to nature to get inspiration, as I made it throughout present by the rustle of leaves, the murmur of water, the singing of birds, the blowing of winds, the voices of humans and so on. Additionally, in music I did not use any electrical instruments because all the instruments used were natural and dependent on themselves in producing sounds, except for the generic song that was made by an electric guitar.

 “Tamawite” or the Amazigh cry was necessary. It is not traditional nor part of folklore; yet it is an epitome for an entire human squeal. A cry for losing heaven and descending to earth… I have always been working on the creation of a Sufi tendency in cinematic writing. I deem that Izorane was meant to be the beginning of such tendency.

  ICEM: We felt you want to send many messages in a short period of time. What is the main message Mr. Alaoui wants to say in words, not images this time? 

 Dr. Azlarab Alaoui:  Formulating messages through pictures was not my principal aim because the idea is deeper than that. It is meant to make time stand still in one of the human Sufi moments. A moment of diving into the self in the same manner as the girl who dived into the bottom of the lake in the movie. It is a search for truth. Sufism in cinema is diving through pictures for the essence of things. The story behind the movie is only a cover to pass to what is much deeper.

  ICEM: Izorane got many prizes: in Tangier, Algeria, and Spain?In fact, ICEM broad is glad to have you in the first issue and wish you all the best. 

Dr. Azlarab Alaoui: Actually, Izorane was successful in and outside the country. It has offered a lesson in visual writing in many institutes of cinema. It has won many awards. However, celebrating it in this magazine which is considered to be the first critical initiative in the world first language is an honor for me and an ovation for serious and perfect production.

I hope I will be up to your expectations, and I extend my warmest regards to the readers of this magazine.

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