“I don’t think you ever have to be fearful when you’re writing a film,” says Moroccan filmmaker Maryam Touzani ahead of the premiere of her second feature “The Blue Caftan” in Un Certain Regard.
Following the relationship between husband and wife Halim and Mina who have kept Halim’s homosexuality a secret for many years, the film takes an important stand against the homophobia of Morocco and its anti-LGTBQ laws. “In Morocco, homosexuality is illegal and I don’t have words to describe how it makes me feel. As a human being, that’s something I cannot accept,” Touzani says.
She adds: “I don’t know what the reactions are going to be to the film and it could be very complicated, but in any case I think when there is a real belief in the stories you’re telling the rest doesn’t matter.”
The idea for the film began during the making of Touzani’s first feature, “Adam”, which also had its premiere in Un Certain Regard in 2019. “While I was scouting for that film, I met a man who triggered a lot of emotions in me because I felt that there were a lot of things in his life that he was keeping to himself. I think he reminded me of a lot of men I had heard about when I was younger, couples that my parents knew, where certain things weren’t really said,” the director explains.
Feeling a need to dig deeper into the lives of those who “can’t be who they want to be, love who they want to love, lead the life they want to live,” Touzani built a story that navigates what love can mean in fraught circumstances. As Mina’s health deteriorates, she focuses on supporting Halim in embracing his true self and accepting his love for the apprentice hired to work in their tailoring business. “All she cares about is leaving behind a man who loves himself,” Touzani says. “In trying to protect Halim from himself and the society for so long, she has, in a sense, made him more fragile because he’s always been hiding. Now she wants him to assume who he is and love who he is.’
Making such a film in Morocco was not an easy task and Touzani is unsure about whether the film will be well-received, if screened at all in the country. “I’m very curious to see what will happen there because we did get help from the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre to fund this film on the basis of the script. I think there is a big desire to move forward in our society and talk about certain things but there are different forces at play. That’s why I believe that as a filmmaker it’s important to be able to make a statement like this one, because it’s going to be able to contribute to opening a debate at least,” she says.
Before then, in Cannes, the filmmaker is thrilled to be returning to the same strand that welcomed her first feature. “Cannes is for me the most beautiful place for a film to begin its life,” she says. “To be here again with my second feature feels very special. In Un Certain Regard, with the kind of cinema that the section tries to encourage and the different perspectives from around the world, there’s this inter-cultural dialogue that takes place here through cinema and I think it’s so beautiful to be part of this cinematographic experience and community.”