Moroccan-Belgian director, Nabil Ben Yadir, who is currently attending the Marrakech film festival for his sophomore pic “The Marchers”, screening in Official Competition, is prepping a political thriller, “Dode Hoek” (“Blind Spot”), set against Belgium’s deep Flemish-French divide.
The helmer’s debut film, “The Barons”, won the jury prize at the Marrakech fest in 2009 and was the country’s biggest domestic hit that year with 170,000 admissions.
“The Marchers” is a Franco-Belgian coproduction, starring French-Moroccan standup comedian, Jamel Debbouze, and distributed by Luc Besson’s Europa Corp.
Using a road-movie style, it recreates the 1983 Beurs’ March, in which a group of teenagers marched to Paris to protest against racism, inspired by Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi”, and rocked the regime topped by François Mitterand.
“All my films are about frontiers” Ben Yadir explains. “Given my own dual cultural background, with Moroccan and Belgian roots, I’m interested in the tensions that exist at cultural dividing points, which are particularly sensitive at present in France and Belgium”.
Budgeted at 10.7 million euros ($14.5 million) “The Marchers” was released to favorable reviews on November 27 in France, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the original march.
Like Ben Yadir’s previous pics, “Blind Spot” will once again be produced by leading Belgian production house, Entre Chien et Loup, in coproduction with the helmer’s own production company, L’Antelope Joyeuse.
The pic has received subsidy support from both the French-speaking and Flemish-speaking funding agencies in Belgium and Ben Yadir is currently negotiating deals with broadcasters in the French and Flemish communities and is in discussion with foreign coproducers and distributors, including Europa Corp.
“Blind Spot” tells the tale of a racist Flemish cop, played by Jan Decleir (who also starred in “Les Barons”), who after becoming involved in extreme right-wing politics discovers his long-lost son – who lives in the French-speaking community.
Father and son are separated by a huge cultural and generational divide, aggravated by the fact that they can’t speak each other’s languages – even though they both live in the same country.
Ben Yadir is confident that the subject-matter will attract major interest, given its topicality, but emphasizes that it needs to be backed by a powerful story.
“People are increasingly interested in political issues but when they go to the cinema they’re looking for escapism – films such as “Hunger Games”. My challenge is to direct an innovative political thriller that will engage with audiences from both communities in Belgium.”
The helmer has also deliberately chosen a different genre for each of his films, starting with a comedy, followed by a historical drama and now prepping a thriller.
“Before becoming a filmmaker I worked on the assembly line for Volkswagen, spending months on end doing exactly the same thing – now I make sure that I always take new challenges and adopt new approaches”.
There is nonetheless a key theme running through Ben Yadir’s works – the dangers of increasing racism and extreme right wing movements in Europe.
Lensing on “Blind Spot” is scheduled to commence in Spring 2014.