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Maryam Touzani’s debut feature and Cannes-player “Adam” has been selected as Morocco’s submission to the 2020 Academy Award for best international feature film – the first time that a picture from a woman director has been chosen to represent the country.

The pic is co-written and produced by Nabil Ayouch. Touzani previously starred in, and co-wrote, Ayouch’s 2017 hit “Razzia.”

The seven-person selection committee was presided by Moroccan director Noureddine Lakhmari (“Casanegra”).

The film received a standing ovation on its world premiere at Cannes, and won an audience award at the Angouleme French Film Festival in August. Berlin-based Films Boutique acquired international sales rights to the pic before Cannes; early distribution deals have been inked in France with Ad Vitam and in Benelux with Cinéart.

The pic turns on the difficulties faced by an unwed heavily pregnant country girl in conservative Morocco. Samia – who has been rejected by the father of her soon-to-be-born child – is given shelter by Abla, a widow with an eight-year-old daughter.

Touzani explained that the story was inspired by her own personal experience and revolves around issues of female identity in contemporary Morocco, where women are torn between traditional values of motherhood and the desire for independence.

“As a filmmaker, in a country such as mine, I am naturally sensitive to the struggles of other women,” explains Touzani. “Struggles that often go unnoticed, but that can be extremely inspiring. I think cinema can play a real part in changing our realities. I believe that there are some stories that need to be told, that need to be heard, and this selection encourages my conviction in the necessity to give them a voice.”

Producer Ayouch underlined the importance of this nomination for the film itself, and also for his country.

“I have followed Maryam’s work since her very first steps in filmmaking. I’m proud of this selection because I believe in her talent and in what she has to say,” he added. “We have many excellent female directors in Morocco, but this is the first time that a woman has been chosen to represent the country at the Academy Awards. To me, it’s very positive for Morocco. It’s a step forward.”

“Adam” was co-produced by Amine Benjelloun and Patrick Quinet for Ayouch’s Casablanca and Paris-based labels Ali N’ Productions and Les Films du Nouveau Monde, along with Artémis Productions.

In addition to its powerful social theme, the film’s striking visual design has a painterly feel. “I have always been very inspired by the paintings of Caravaggio, Vermeer, Georges de la Tour,” said Touzani. “For me, light and color composition were essential to the way I sought to visually bring this story to life.”

The award ceremony of the 92nd Academy Awards will be held on February 9, 2020.