Though she tried for years to distance herself from her Moroccan roots, Fatima Jebli Ouazzani has reluctantly found ca-tharsis in mining the past.
The Dutch-raised scripter and helmer left Morocco for Holland as a child and, after refusing an arranged marriage, became estranged from her father.
Although she was bent on working in the mainstream of Dutch radio and TV, when penning her first film, Jebli Ouazzani looked inward to come up with “In My Father’s House.” The autobiographical documentary, which examined the author’s quest for her father’s love, received theatrical and TV runs in Holland.
While she is lauded in her adopted country, acceptance in her native community has been difficult.
“In Moroccan culture, becoming an artist is not an accepted choice,” she explains. Indeed, it took two years before Jebli Ouazzani mustered the courage to tell her mother what she was up to. “But when I told her, she said it was only important that I be able to support myself and not be dependent on a man.”
Keen to tell stories that engage the viewer, Jebli Ouazzani is taking a lesson from American filmmakers. “Europeans have good material but forget to communicate with the audience like Americans do,” she says.
Jebli Ouazzani is writing her first feature, “Halima’s Paradise,” which she also will direct. She was awarded the cum laude status while working on the script at the Maurits Binger Film Institute in Amsterdam.
“It’s a feel-good movie about a Moroccan woman who finds her voice through music and dance,” Jebli Ouazzani explains.
Pietar Van Hystee Films is producing and avidly looking for partners. Though there’s no set budget as yet, Jebli Ouazzani says it will be expensive according to European standards, with shoots in Holland and Morocco next summer.