Marrakech: Ahmed Boulane Plans Moroccan ‘Scarface’ Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

Helmer screened his latest film, 'La Isla' at the festival

Ahmed Boulane
Photo by Martin Dale

MARRAKECH: Dubbed by some as the “enfant terrible” of Moroccan cinema, 59-year old helmer Ahmed Boulane is prepping a feature film about Moroccan drug lords, which he describes as a Moroccan “Scarface” project.

Born and raised in the former pirates’ republic of Sale, Boulane specializes in “factions” – fiction films based on real life events. Over the last 12 months, he has been investigating Morocco’s drug cartels with a leading Moroccan journalist, including interviews with drug barons held in Moroccan prisons.

Boulane considers that the subject offers ideal material for an insight into a lesser-known side of his country, while providing the dramatic ingredients for an international project.

He aims to develop the project as a co-production with Spain and Italy, following in the footsteps of his recent Moroccan-Spanish co-production, “La Isla,” which is screening out of competition at Marrakech.

Boulane has dual Moroccan-Irish citizenship, through his previous marriage with Darina O’Byrne, and since 2000 has been life partner of American Dana Schondelmeyer, who worked as costume designer on “La Isla.”

“The fact that my ex-wife is Irish and my current partner is American coupled with the fact that I go to Ireland every year to see my children has had a major influence on the way I see the world,” he says. “I think I’m a naturally cynical person, but they helped me discover the delights of black humor.”

Boulane sees himself as a political filmmaker – raising issues that he believes need to be addressed, and which he says makes him very popular with some sections of Moroccan society, unpopular with others.

He is also a film-buff and traces links between other films he has seen and his own project. “Artists never create from scratch,” he says. “We transform.” For “La Isla,” Boulane says he was influenced by Daniel Defoe’s novel “Robinson Crusoe”, the Tom Hanks-starrer “Castaway” and the final part of Franklin J. Schaffner’s “Papillon”.

Boulane started his career as an actor in the 1970s and until the late 1990s worked as a first assistant director, casting director and line producer on international shoots in Morocco.

Over the last fifteen years, he has directed several landmark films in Moroccan cinema, including his 2007 pic, “Satanic Angels,” which topped the Moroccan box office in 2007, about fourteen Moroccan hard rockers falsely accused of being Satanists, and the homecoming drama, “The Return of the Son,” which played in Marrakech’s Cinema at Heart sidebar in 2011, about a Moroccan young man who decides to return to Morocco after his mother forcibly took him to Belgium 15 years earlier.

For his upcoming “Scarface” project, which he hopes to film in 2016, he aims to explore a new genre – the gangster movie – but wants to ground it in true-life events.