Producer Said Hamich on Atlas Workshop Winner ‘Zanka Contact,’ Upcoming Projects

Producer Said Hamich on 'Zanka Contact,'
Courtesy of Leonidas Arvanitis

Two projects from Franco-Moroccan producer Saïd Hamich won big at the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshop this year, with the upcoming Kamal Lazraq-directed feature “Les Meutes” nabbing a development prize and the recently wrapped “Zanka Contact” winning an $11,000 post-production grant. “Zanka Contact” director Ismaël El Iraki was on-hand to present 10 minutes of footage, which screened before the gathered sales agents and festival programmers for the first time.

Speaking with Variety, Hamich touts El Iraki’s feature debut as an original proposition for contemporary Moroccan cinema. “It’s a wild, energetic film that’s part musical, part Western, and shot in 35mm scope,” says the producer. “It’s a love story between two survivors… who connect because they’ve both survived traumatic events.”

That subject has some resonance for El Iraki, who himself is a survivor of the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks in Paris. Though the film is not directly inspired by that specific set of events, it does deal with the emotional aftermath and mental toll of living with such grief.

“It’s about how to process trauma, and how to be a survivor, while staying an energetic, musical experience,” Hamich explains. “The lead characters are pursued by the traumas they’ve experienced, and the film uses this framework of a love story to ask how one can survive such an intense experience. Via love and music, they help each other overcome.”

A Belgian-Franco-Moroccan co-production, “Zanka Contact” is slated to be ready for April 2020.

Trained in France and now based between Paris and Casablanca, Hamich is readying two more projects for production next year. The producer is currently securing financing for director Steve Achiepo’s “The Slumlord” and Faouzi Bensaïdi’s “Desert,” both of which are due to begin lensing in fall 2020.

Set in the Paris suburbs, “The Slumlord” follows an ex-con whose good intentions draw him into a world of moral compromise. “It’s about someone who initially wants to help but finds himself progressively becoming a slumlord,” says Hamich. “It’s a film about what’s right and wrong, and what it means to help others.”

As for “Desert,” the producer describes the film as social satire with slightly surrealist touches that follows two collections agents in the south of Morocco. Though both films will evince a strong social conscience, they’ll approach their subjects with a genre-friendly touch.

“We’re looking to craft auteur cinema with mainstream appeal,” Hamich adds. “Our objective is to go towards the public, while offering them a more open and expansive kind of cinema.”

With footholds in both industries, Hamich and his associates also line-produce for French productions looking to shoot in Morocco. This past year, Hamich – via his Mont Fleuri Production outfit – line-produced Lucas Belvaux’s Algerian war drama “Des Hommes” and Rachel Lang’s Mali-set “Mon Legionnaire.”

“We’re not just a young company that only does first or second films,” says Hamich. “We also work on larger productions, and that will help us develop productions of a similar scale going forward.” Indeed, both films focus on wartime settings and feature major French stars, and the producer hopes to bank on the experience gained.

“All the people who come to see me wanting to shoot in Morocco already know me as a Paris-based producer,” he explains. “Executive producing for others helps our own company; it gives us more experience and know-how that we can then apply to the projects that we develop ourselves. You have to be able to develop and produce, and we’re trying to do both. The more I line-produce, the more excited I get about developing my own projects.”