Ayouch has directed some of Morocco’s biggest international successes over recent years – including “Whatever Lola Wants” (2007) and “My Land” (2011) – and is viewed as the godfather of the new generation of Moroccan filmmakers, having produced over 50 features with new talent.
The 44-year old, Paris-born Ayouch is currently back in the limelight due to his 2012 Cannes-player “Horses of God” – Morocco’s official entry for the 86th Academy Awards and the country’s first ever Golden Globes entry – which is being supported and presented in the U.S. by Jonathan Demme.
He describes his next major project, penned by “Horses”’ scribe, Jamal Belmahi, as a “futuristic fresco of Arab society.”
“We’re working with architects to make the ‘city’ look like a mixture of tradition and very high-tech buildings. There’ll be a lot of matte paintings and 3D special effects for the outside shots.”
The plot focuses on a tiny, privileged elite living in high-security enclaves cut off from the poor masses – with one main character from each background.
“The dictatorship regimes in the Arab countries diverted attention away from the struggle between rich and poor, because people were more concerned by their fundamental rights” suggests Ayouch.
“But in the wake of the Arab Spring, we believe that the Arab world will now be more focused on these questions and it will be more difficult to use Islam as a tool of domination over coming decades.”
In the wake of winning major kudos at fests such as Doha Tribeca, Seattle, Valladolid, Brussels and Alexandria, Demme, who was wowed by “Horses” when he caught it at Marrakech last year, brokered a deal for “Horses” in October between William Morris Endeavour and “Horses”sales agent Wild Bunch, making him the pic’s official presenter to the U.S. market.
Private screenings are being organized for Academy members and advanced negotiations are underway with two U.S. distributors for a Spring release.
“Jonathan is putting his publicity machine at the service of the film, which has been absolutely amazing,” beams Ayouch.
“My agents at William Morris believe that ‘Horses of God’ is a great entry door to help them find funding for my new films”.
Ayouch is delighted by the feedback he’s been receiving in his bid to reach the Academy Awards’ final shortlist and by the chance to convey his story to a wider audience: “When I told my young actors that I’ll be going back to LA for further screenings, they sent me their blessings and asked me to shout to the American audience a message of peace, a message of hope of a better future, coming from young Muslims from the slums of Morocco.”
“Horses” tackles the complex human story that led children from a poor Casablanca slum to become suicide bombers, and it’s precisely Ayouch’s keen eye and willingness to explore such sensitive subjects that has brought him international acclaim.
Other projects on Ayouch’s production slate include docudrama, “Expired”, co-produced between Morocco, the U.K., Sweden, Germany, Belgium and France, and “Simply Juana” – a biopic about a Spanish woman in Tangiers in the 1950’s, who left her husband, children, name and religion to marry a young Muslim fisherman and help him in the independence struggle.
Ayouch hopes that “Horses”’ race to the Academy Awards will attract new running partners for his upcoming slate.