Biopic will be an international co-production

Moroccan-French auteur Nabil Ayouch, whose “Horses of God” plays in Un Certain Regard today, is prepping “Simply Juana,” one of the biggest-budgeted projects to come out of the Arab region this year.

“Juana” is a Tangiers-set biopic about Spanish aristocrat Juana Villar, a Catholic mother of three, who in the 1950s abandoned her family and converted to Islam to marry a Muslim fisherman 15 years her junior.

“As she ventures into another society, adopts a different religion, and even changes names, Juana discovers what is essential to her and who she really is,” Ayouch said.

Ayouch and Moroccan journalist and screenwriter Maryam Touzani, have written the screenplay.

“Juana” will be structured as an international co-production, Ayouch added, with a budget around €10 million to €12 million ($13 million to $15.6 million),

Ayouch is also developing “Du desir,” an intimate drama he describes as a kind of follow-up to his taboo-busting “A Minute of Sun Less.”

Shot in 2003 for Franco-German TV channel ARTE, “Minute,” a romantic film noir, was sexually frank, even by French standards.

“Du desir” will explore a couple’s “desire — or lack of desire, to be more explicit. We’ll not just talk about, we’ll show it.”

He is writing the screenplay with Camelia Montassere.

“Horses of God” is sold by Wild Bunch and distributed in France by Pierre-Ange Le Pogam at Stone Angels, one of the film’s producers.

“Horses” portrays the early lives of the four perpetrators of 2003’s Casablanca suicide bombings.

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