‘The Bureau’ Director Laila Marrakchi Unveils New Feature Projects (EXCLUSIVE)Elsa KeslassyElsa Keslassy is Variety's International Correspondent, based out of Paris, where she’s in charge of covering the entertainment industry in France, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Israel. She attends key festivals and markets, including Cannes, Berlin, the AFM and Mipcom, among others. She holds a degree in print journalism from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. She lived a number of years in Los Angeles and began her career in documentary, working for Kirby Dick, the director/producer of Oscar-nominated "The Invisible War.” She started writing for Variety out of the L.A. office in 2007, before moving back to her hometown in Paris a year later to become the trade’s France correspondent.
High-profile Paris-based Moroccan filmmaker Laila Marrakchi (“Rock the Casbah,” “Marock”) is partnering up with Backup Films (“Donnybrook”) and Alexandre Aja (“The Hills Have Eyes”) on “My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece,” her long-gestating English-language project based on Annabel Pitcher’s bestselling novel.
The book has been translated into more than 20 languages and has earned many prizes including the Royal Society of Authors’ Betty Trask nod and the Hull Children’s book of the year. Marrakchi is writing the script with British writer Amber Trentham (“Rhapsody in Blueberry”). The pair is working on the final draft and has incorporated new elements, such as Brexit, into the storyline. The British Film Institute has just come on board to support the project.
The film will revolve around a 10-year-old boy whose sister was killed in a terrorist attack in London when he was 5 years old and has been raised by his father who has become Islamophobic. When Jamie falls in love for the first time with Sunya, a British-Pakistani girl, he discovers that her world is not so different from his.
Marrakchi, who was at the Marrakech Film Festival to moderate (along with actor-turned-director Faouzi Bensaidi) the masterclass with Martin Scorsese, said “My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece” will weave drama, emotions and comedy, and be told from the perspective of the child. “It’s based on a novel which is very intelligent and subtle,” said Marrakchi, who added that she hoped the film will be in the same vein as “Billy Elliot.” Some parts of the film will be animated.
Marrakchi is in discussions with a U.K. production company to come on board the project.
Over the last few years, Marrakchi has directed multiple episodes of Eric Rochant’s spy thriller series “The Bureau” (pictured), which earned an International Emmy Award nomination, as well as episodes of Netflix’s series “Marseille.” She said the experience of working on a high-end series like “The Bureau” has been “tremendously enriching” as a filmmaker and has allowed her to develop many skills.
Aside from “My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece,” she’s developing a feature adaptation of Paul Bowles’s “L’éducation de Malika,” a personal project following the itinerary of a young Moroccan woman who aspires to free herself from her roots, and travels around the world in a quest to find her true self. She’s partnering with two producers on this project, Stéphanie Carreras at Estrella Productions, and Philippe Carcassonne at Ciné-@.
Marrakchi is also in early development on “Casa Girls,” a daring female-centric series about three twentysomething women living in Casablanca.
Marrakchi has so far directed two feature films, “Rock the Casbah” and “Marock,” both of which were B.O. hits in Morocco and traveled well.