×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Nabil Ayouch Set to Direct Realist Hip Hop Musical ‘Positive School’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Film marks a follow-up to ‘Razzia,’ which hits the Rotterdam Festival this weekend and Sweden’s Göteborg Fest next week

Moroccan-French writer-director Nabil Ayouch, one of the most prominent film voices in the Arab World, is set to direct “Positive School,” a hybrid, realistically-shot hip hop musical which returns him to the Casablanca of his 2012 Cannes Un Certain Regard player “Horses of God” and 2016’s “Razzia,” a 2017 Toronto Platform premiere and Morocco’s Academy Award submission.

All three are grounded in the contemporary realities of Morocco which will no doubt be portrayed in “Positive School” with the sense of urgency and necessity which is one of Ayouch’s auteur hallmarks.

But “Horses of God” and “Razzia” chronicle how seething  frustration fuels violence – the Casablanca 2003 suicide bombings of “Horses of God,” the ex-student street protests of “Razzia”; or paralyzing despair. In contrast, inspired by real events in Casablanca and Ayouch’s own life, and set like “Horses of God” in Casablanca’s Sidi Moumen slum – a mix of low-rise HLM-style housing blocks and shanty town – “Positive School” looks set to record a much happier outcome, being inspired by a true-life cultural center lost in the midst of Sidi Moumen where former rapper Anas is teaching young kids, girls and boys, to express themselves through hip hop song and dance.

Ayouch and “Razzia” cinematographer Virginie Surdej and Amine Messadi have been researching “how to shoot the dance and choreography differently, in a very realistic, naturalistic way,” Ayouch told Variety.

A fiction feature, “Positive School” will feature performances, both dance – new style and breakdance – and song: Rap and slam. The film will follow five main characters and Anas as the students battle obstacles to learning hip-hop, such as families’ opposition to young girls singing and dancing, which some claim is forbidden by Islam.

“Positive School” will show “how people who are told all the time by the state and institutions that violence should not be a way of expression can be taught another way of expression,” Ayouch said.

He added: “That’s what this teacher is doing, offering a new deal, regeneration, to these young kids who have nothing in this town. No place except this little cultural center where they can really express what they have inside. It’s giving people a sense of self-respect. It’s really civilization. It’s how to change the world.”

Moroccan hip hop is inspired by how black communities made themselves heard in the U.S. via hip-hop. “Positive School” will also be inspired by Ayouch’s personal experience. He grew up in the Paris suburb city of Sarcelles, a stronghold of HLMs with a large mixed ethnic community.

“The thing that changed my life and my destiny was a little cultural center, the Forum des Cholettes, exactly like the one where I’m going to shoot the film, one of the MJC (Maisons de la Jeunesse et de la Culture) network created by André Malraux.  It’s another way of seeing culture, not the culture of museums but the culture of proximity that is close to people,” Ayouch said.

He recalled: “That’s where I opened myself up to the world, learnt to tap-dance, sing, watched my first Eisenstein and Chaplin movies. I’m very convinced I would not be a director if I hadn’t gone there.”

Written by Ayouch, “Positive School” unites the producers of “Razzia” – one of the only public signs that a film has been a success for those involved: France’s Unité de Production and Les Films du Nouveau Monde, Morocco’s Ali N’ Productions, which is Ayouch’s own Casablanca-based label, and Belgium’s Artemis Productions.

“Positive School” will go into production from August.

More Film

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab

    TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab (EXCLUSIVE)

    The TorinoFilmLab has announced the 20 feature projects and five story editor trainees who have been selected to take part in the 2019 edition of ScriptLab, an initiative focused on the development of fiction feature film scripts in early development stage. Beginning in March, this year’s participants will team up with filmmakers from around the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    North American Box Office Declines From Last Year With Weak Presidents Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” easily won a tepid Presidents Day weekend with a $34.2 million at 3,790 North American locations, estimates showed Monday. Overall domestic moviegoing for 2019 has plunged 22.1% to $1.24 billion as of Monday, according to Comscore. That’s $350 million below the same date a year ago and the lowest figure at this [...]

  • Queen + Adam Lambert perform at

    Queen to Perform at Oscars

    Queen will perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy announced on social media today. The move, which is not completely a surprise, comes in the wake of the blockbuster success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic about the band and its late singer, Freddie Mercury. The band now performs under the [...]

  • Richard E. Grant Variety Facetime Interview

    Richard E. Grant on How to Survive Awards Season With Flair

    An Oscar would certainly be nice, but Richard E. Grant doesn’t need a golden statue to walk away from this awards season as a winner. The 61-year-old actor landed his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Jack Hock, the loyal accomplice of author-turned-literary forager Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) in the biopic “Can You [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    'Alita: Battle Angel' Banks on Foreign Audiences to Save It From Box Office Disaster

    “Alita: Battle Angel” beat expectations with its $27 million debut at the domestic box office, but Fox’s cyberpunk fantasy adventure has a long road to travel before it can claim victory. When it comes to achieving profitability, the CGI-spectacular may never arrive at that particular destination. With a production budget hovering at $170 million (Fox [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content