×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Nabil Ayouch Discusses Latest Movie Project ‘Positive School’

The hip-hop themed drama is set in a cultural center he founded in Casablanca’s Sidi Moumen suburb

Moroccan-French writer-director Nabil Ayouch, whose last film “Razzia” was Morocco’s entry for the foreign-language film Oscar, is completing principal photography on “Positive School.” He spoke to Variety about the project.

“Positive School” is a realistic drama set in the cultural center he set up in Casablanca’s Sidi Moumen neighborhood, a poor suburb that became infamous in 2003 due to a terrorist attack perpetrated by locals. Ayouch has been prepping the film for a year and a half, working with non-professional actors attending the center.

The film is shot in a documentary style, and is centered on former hip-hop singer Anas, who begins to teach music, dance and creative writing at the center, and inspires his students to question stereotypes about Morocco and themselves. Ayouch describes the film as a mix between “Fame” and Laurent Cantet’s “Entre les Murs” (The Class).

The helmer grew up in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, an area largely composed of public housing with a mixed ethnic community, and says that the cultural center in Sarcelles, the Forum des Cholettes, was a key formative influence. He is keen to extend this culture to Morocco via his Ali Zaoua Foundation, which he set up in 2009. He has just finished building a second cultural center in Tangier, with two further centers planned for Fez and Agadir. The foundation has funding from private companies and donors, and recently received a donation from the Swiss foundation Drosos, whose mission is to support disadvantaged people.

“I learnt how to tap dance, sing and saw my first concert and first Chaplin and Eisenstein movies in the Sarcelles cultural center. That’s exactly what we’re doing here. We’re screening films, putting on plays, organizing debates and have professors of French, English, dance, music and painting,” Ayouch says.

“Positive School” has funding from Morocco’s Cinema Center, Canal Plus in France, the CNC’s Aide aux Cinémas du Monde and French distributor Ad Vitam, and will be released next year.

Ayouch was subject to a major polemic in 2015 due to his prostitution drama “Much Loved,” which was fiercely criticized by conservative sections of Moroccan society. He says that “Razzia,” a complex inter-generational tale linked to the 1942 classic “Casablanca,” helped him rebuild his connection with Moroccan audiences, as he toured the country with his leading cast and crew, with many sessions sold out.

Playtime sold the film to several international territories, with a release in Spain by Pirámide Film up next.

The helmer is also producing “Adam,” the debut feature from his wife, Maryam Touzani, lead actress of “Razzia,” who previously lensed two award-winning shorts – “Aya Goes to the Beach” and “When They Slept.” “Adam” received a production grant from the Doha Film Institute in its spring 2018 grant cycle. Starring Lubna Azabal (“Paradise Now”), the film is about a 30-yearold pregnant woman who travels from the countryside to Casablanca, after the father refuses to recognize the about-to-born child. In Casablanca she bonds with a 45-yearold widow who lives alone with her daughter.

“Marian’s film has beautiful, frozen images,” says Ayouch. “Its artistic line is a bit like Alexander Sokurov’s films – very simple, straight, and formal.”

Ayouch is also prepping an eight-part European TV series, which he says he has embraced because it gives him a bigger canvas to explore characters.

More Film

  • China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches

    China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches $557 Million in Second Week

    The winning films from Chinese New Year remained on top of the Chinese box office in their second normal weekend of release. Locally-made sci-fi film “The Wandering Earth” advanced its score to $557 million. “Wandering Earth” earned $88.8 million between Friday and Monday, according to data from Asian film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was [...]

  • Nuno Beato’s ‘My Grandfather’ Part of

    ‘My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons’ Marks Sardinha em Lata’s Animation Build

    Portuguese animator-producer-director Nuno Beato, whose credits include “Emma & Gui,” “Híssis” and the multi-prized “My Life In Your Hands,” will pitch a new project, currently in development, “My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons” at Bordeaux’s upcoming Cartoon Movie, the leading European animated feature forum. Cartoon Movie runs March 5-7. Combining 2D and stop-motion, [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. The major guild [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content