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Moroccan Director Leila Kilani on ‘New Type of Hero’ in ‘Joint Possession’

Moroccan director Leïla Kilani presented the rough cut of her second feature film, “Joint Possession,” in the post-production section of Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshops. She spoke to Variety about the film, which she describes as a “war film, inside a family.”

Kilani’s debut feature “Sur la Planche” (“On the Edge”), about two women flirting with crime in Tangiers, screened in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight in 2011, and went on to enjoy considerable success and prizes.

She began shooting “Joint Possession” in 2015 and the picture has evolved organically over the past four years.

Kilani views “Joint Possession” as an aesthetic and thematic departure – “more epic, more lyrical, a kind of Greek tragedy” – from “On the Edge,” which she describes as having a monochromatic visual style, with an urban setting in Tangiers, and primarily revolving around the semi-anarchic young female characters. In 2011, it was considered to have a socially aware intrigue that reflected the spirit of the Arab spring.

Her new film is set in a huge country estate near Tangiers, and the key characters include a young girl and her father, both of whom sense an umbilical link with the natural environment, and the grandmother, who wants to sell the property.

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Kilani describes the father as a tender man who introduces an element of “soft anarchy” into the family when he refuses to sell his stake in the property and says he will donate it.

She says he has a spiritual/mystical quality that has parallels with the qualities of “El Majdoub,” a famous North African 16th century Berber poet, a Sufi and mystic.

“One of the main themes I want to explore in the film is who does property belong to. The father is a new type of hero in my work. He is very transgressive, in a very gentle way. He believes that the earth belongs to no-one, just to itself. He’s a kind of ‘El Majdoub’ or like the Greek seer, Tiresias. He can communicate with the elements and with the birds.”

In the rough-cut stage, a 13-minute extract was shown in the Arabian film screenings at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival; and a 40-minute version screened in Venice’s Final Cut Program in the same year.

In the summer of 2019, Kilani reshot sequences of this film because she says that it “felt like a shirt that no longer fits me.” Kilani aims to complete the €1.23 million ($1.35 million) project in mid-2020.

The film involves several of the same production elements as her first feature. It is co-produced by Emmanuel Barrault’s DKB Productions (France) and Kilani’s Socco Chico Films (Morocco), with post-production support from Digital District and subsidy support from Moroccan Cinema Center (CCM), and the CNC’s World Cinema Fund.

Additional support has been provided by the Doha Film Institute, Enjaaz (a Dubaï Film Market Initiative), AFAC – the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, and the Abu Dhabi film festival.

Haut et Court has acquired French distribution rights.

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