Mounia Meddour, the director of the Cesar-winning film “Papicha” that also played to acclaim at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2019, will next direct “Houria,” an Algeria-set drama headlined by “Papicha” star Lyna Khoudri.
Meddour, who is on the jury of this year’s Un Certain Regard, wrote the original screenplay for “Houria.”
The film is set in contemporary Algeria and will star Khoudri (“The French Dispatch”) as a young woman who is passionate about ballet dancing and experiences a trauma. Following this personal tragedy, she meets other women who have experienced similar situations and finds a creative way to pursue her passion. Besides Khoudri, who has become one of France’s hottest actors, “Houria” will star Amira Hilda Douaouda, another “Papicha” actor, as well as Rachida Brakni (“Baron Noir’).
“Like ‘Papicha,’ ‘Houria’ will tell the story of strong-willed women on their paths to resilience and emancipation which are themes that drive me, both in my life and in my work,” said Meddour.
“‘Papicha’ was a film about what I witnessed in Algeria, growing up in the 1990s, and ‘Houria’ is a pure fiction but it’s equally political because it unfolds in today’s Algeria where the society has been torn by civic unrest,” said Meddour.
With its ensemble cast of female actors, “Houria” will also be about sorority, another theme that Meddour is attached to. “‘Houria’ will show how women can bond together to liberate themselves and pursue their passion,” said the helmer who hopes to start shooting the movie later this year in Algeria and Morocco.
Meddour said she was ecstatic to back at Un Certain Regard on the jury a couple years after having world premiered “Papicha.” “After the terrible year we just went through where humanity was in standstill it’s both moving and wonderful to be back here at Cannes, and in Un Certain Regard, where the adventure of ‘Papicha’ kicked off,” said Meddour, who was recently named Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters from France’s culture minister Roselyne Bachelot.
Although it was her feature debut, “Papicha” made history in France by becoming the most successful African film directed by a woman at the French box office. The movie, which follows daring young women who refuse to bow down to fundamentalism, represented Algeria in the Oscar’s international feature film race even though its commercial release was cancelled in Algeria for political reasons. The movie also won the Humanitarian Award from the International Press Academy before winning the Cesar award for best first film. It also won the 2020 Academy Gold Fellowship Award for Women from the AMPAS.
“Houria” reunites Meddour with her “Papicha” producers, Xavier Gens and Gregoire Gensollen at Paris-based The Ink Connection, and Patrick André at High Sea Productions. Le Pacte will distribute the film in France and Wild Bunch handles international sales.
Other projects on Meddour’s development slate also includes an ambitious period movie about a female icon during La Belle Epoque, which Pathé and “Eiffel” producer Vanessa van Zuylen are co-developing.