Locarno: Legzouli’s ‘God’ Presented at Locarno’s Open Doors

"Siens" marks the biggest budget of the Locarno section

Moroccan Hassan Legzouli pitchs third feature
Curtesy of Locarno Film Festival

LOCARNO — Moroccan Hassan Legzouli is pitching his third project, “Dieu reconnaitra les siens” (“God Will Know His Own”), at Locarno’s Open Doors, the fest’s minimart for independent projects from countries where movie productions face sometimes daunting difficulties.

The only genre item among Open Doors projects, “Siens” presents the story of Hamid, 10 years in the service of “Islamiste Internationale” who travels worldwide. Though his family thinks he was killed in Bosnia, he returns to his birthplace in northern France, where all his family is going to be reunited. But he also has a mission.

“I wanted to tell the story as a thriller, with all the codes of this genre. The story itself is very suited for it; as matter of fact, I didn’t want to make a social thesis or political movie,” Legzouli told Variety.

The project is at a writing/development status; the budget is $2.1 million, the highest of any Open Doors project this year.

“We don’t want just a French-Moroccon co-production for ‘God.’ I would like to co-produce with Germany or Norway, and we’ve had interesting talks in Locarno,” Legzouli announced. Asilah-based Mohamed Ulad’s Zilis Films produces.

Legzouli attracted reviewers’ attention with his debut, “Testament,” sold by Paris’ Celluloid Dreams, which Variety’s Jay Weissberg called a “sweet-natured approach to emigrant identity making points about the meaning of home and place with the lightest of touches.”

Legzouli’s sophomore effort, “The Golden Calf,” took the San Sebastian Cinema in Motion Award, ex aequo with Ahmed Nour’s  “Waves,” in 2012. Set in July 1999, on the eve of King Hassan II’s death, “Calf” centers on a disaffected 17-year-old Moroccan and his ploy to steal an ox from the royal family’s ranch in order to pay his passage back to France.

“Calf” revisited Legzouli’s childhood: “I aim to show a different side of Morocco, including grandiose landscapes, worthy of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western, and authentic small towns in the mountainous interior,” he said.

This year’s 13th Open Doors is devoted to four countries from the Maghreb: Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.

According to Open Doors sources, the mart-sidebar “aims primarily at assisting directors and producers from countries in the South and the East, where independent filmmaking is vulnerable, and is committed to enabling them to find co-production partners for their new projects.”

Past Open Doors hosted projects from countries or regions such as Latin America, Cuba, South-East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Greater China, Central Asia, India and the South Caucasus.

Open Doors’ 2015 selection committee included Amanda Scepka, Marion Klotz, Martina Malacrida and Alessandra Speciale.

Running Aug. 8-11 as part of Locarno’s Industry Days, Open Doors is organized in collaboration with Locarno’s Industry Office. Its supporters include Ateliers du Cinema Européen (ACE), European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE) and the Cannes Film Market’s Producers Network.