MADRID — Nabil Ayouch (“Horses of God,” “Much Loved,” “Razzia”), one of the foremost Arab World filmmakers, is preparing “Blackout,” a real-time, near-future social-issue thriller drama series set on the border of Europe and Africa in and around Ceuta, one of Spain’s enclaves in Morocco.
“Black-Out” is set up at Ayouch’s Paris-based Les Films du Nouveau Monde and Casablanca label “Ali N’ Productions – which backed his latest two movies “Razzia,” a 2017 Toronto Platform premiere and Moroccan Academy Award entry, and upcoming “We Will Be Reborn,” a realist hip-hop musical. It is one of the potential highlights among 16 drama series projects to be pitched next week in Cannes at this year’s second and expanded In Development, a joint venture of MipTV and Canneseries.
Moroccan broadcast network 2M has boarded the project.
Given that Ceuta is an integral part of Spain, so the European Union, the highly-fortified Ceuta border fence, consisting of two 20-foot fences and a road between them, is one of the only two land borders between Europe and Africa. It already suffers breaches, on one occasion in 2017 by about 600 immigrants, mostly from Sub-Sahara Africa.
Taking place over one night – eight hours in eight hour episodes – “Blackout” imagines a near future scenario where Ceuta barrier fence will have been electrified. When a large power outage plunges Ceuta into blackout, the barrier falls, and the thousands of migrants camping outside Ceuta sweep into the city.
The narrative will mix action and character introspection, focusing on six characters, Ayouch said, citing two: Pilar de la Barca, general officer of Ceuta Guardia Civil, who has dedicated her life to her work, neglecting her husband and adolescent daughter, but who discovers “her soul, heart and sensitivity” once called on to defend the city; Thialé, a former Nigerian child-soldier famed for his courage who, once in Ceuta, meets Awa, a Senegalese woman, there to find her little sister and take her back to Senegal. Thialé abandons his dream of getting to Europe, his destiny changed.
Spoken in Spanish, Moroccan and French, “Blackout” is currently being written by Ayouch, filmaker-actress Maryam Touzani (“Aya Goes to the Beach”), a co-writer of “Razzia,” and cineast Rita El Quessar (“Once Upon a Time”). The series project has a bible.
Avouch will direct and produce with Moroccan partner Amine Benjelloun.
Coming in on migration, as well as real attitudes to migration, from a novel angle, “Black-Out” asks important questions, Ayouch said: “When the gates open and man is face to face with himself, when there is no longer any law, when fear of the other takes over, when supposed paradise reaches out to some and supposed hell awaits the others, where will we still seek the means to remain lucid? Should we shoot, negotiate, barricade ourselves? Should we kill, hide, run?”
He added: “Is morality still an issue when, on each side of the barrier, your future and that of your kin is at stake?
Ayouch, Touzani and El Quassar will present “Blackout” at In Development. Benjelloun will attend MipTV to hold meetings. Their priority is to meet with potential Spanish partners at Cannes, Avouch said.