Laila Marrakchi Teams With Alexandre Aja on English-Language Debut (EXCLUSIVE)

Laila Marrakchi
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
MARRAKECH — Laila Marrakchi, one of Morocco’s highest-profile directors, is set to make her English-Language debut with “My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.”
The project is an adaptation of the bestselling eponymous novel by Annabel Pitcher. “My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece” has been translated into more than 20 languages and has earned large critical acclaim. Its many prizes include the Royal Society of Authors’ Betty Trask nod, the Hull Children’s book of the year and the Branford Boase award for outstanding debut novel.
A coming-of-age story weaving comedy and drama, “My Sister” centers on Jamie Matthews, a 10-year-old whose family was shattered by the killing of his sister in the London terrorist attack when he was 5. Raised by his hopeless father, who has become racist, Jamie befriends Sunya, a young British-Pakistanese girl who happens to be Muslim and wears the veil. Jamie unexpectedly falls in love for the first time with Sunya and discovers her world, which is not so different from his.
The helmer, whose last two films, “Rock the Casbah” and “Marock,” were hits in Morocco and traveled well, said the book was the perfect vehicle for her to foray into English-language filmmaking.
“It will be a film about childhood, grief, cultural difference and family. It’s such a funny, touching and meaningful story that resonates with what’s happening today,” Marrakchi told Variety.
The helmer said she was also drawn to the book because it’s “entirely told through the eyes of a child, a bit like ‘The Diving Bell and The Butterfly’ and ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild.'”
Popular French director-producer Alexandre Aja will be producing the film with U.K. and possibly U.S. partners.
Marrakchi is writing the project and will team with a British screenwriter.
Making a film in English opens up a whole new range of possibilities,” said Marrakchi. “After ‘Rock the Casbah,’ I just felt the need to distance myself from Morocco and feel free to tell a story that’s not so personal,” added the young director.
Marrakchi is currently working on Canal Plus’ ambitious international thriller series “Le Bureau des Legendes,” produced by Pascal Breton’s Federation Entertainment. The skein is currently in pre-production and will start shooting in February.
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