Moroccan Filmmaker Faouizi Bensaïdi

Born in Meknes, in northern Morocco, on 14 March 1967, Moroccan film director, screenwriter, actor and artist, Faouizi Bensaïdi, has received recognition for his work, both in his home country and internationally. His 2003 film, A Thousand Months was screened at the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section, and his 2011 film Death for Sale featured at the Toronto International Film Festival in September last year and was shown at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival. He has also participated in the biennial Arts in Marrakech Festival, in 2007 and again in 2009.

Upon completion of his primary education, Bensaïdi studied at the Drama and Cultural Animation High School in Rabat, earning a certificate in drama studies, before continuing his education at the Conservatory of Paris. Receiving the Prix Le Premier Regard award for A Thousand Months in 2003, brought Bensaïdi’s screenwriting and directing talents to the attention of the film industry. It was later screened at the 41st New York Film Festival. The film is based in a village in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco in the year 1981, where 7-year-old Mehdi lives with his mother, Amina, and grandfather Ahmed. It is Ramadan and the area is suffering from drought, with the people of the village battling to eke out a living. Mehdi is given the task of looking after his teacher’s chair at night, which he carries home with him each day. It becomes his place to sit and contemplate life from a child’s point of view – a life that is often difficult, subject to the various personalities in a small village community and driven by religious beliefs. The name of the film is taken from a declaration by the grandfather on the last evening of Ramadan, when he states that ‘the Holy Night is worth one thousand months’ of fasting.

Death for Sale focuses on a trio of young Moroccans in the Moroccan city of Tetouan – Malik, Soufiane and Allal. They are drifters trying to escape from a life of poverty and get involved in petty crime. Malik falls in love with Dounia, a prostitute, and is talked into working with a corrupt police inspector, while Allal gets tangled up in drug pushing, and Soufiane rails against his situation by embracing fundamentalism. In a desperate attempt to pull themselves out of their circumstances, they plan to rob a jewelry store. The film starts with the robbery and setting a fast pace in which the audience is drawn into the world of the young thieves.

In a recent interview, Faouizi Bensaïdi was reported as saying that Morocco currently produces up to 20 feature films a year. He also noted that Moroccan filmmakers should aim for an international audience. Certainly, this talented filmmaker will be promoting the film industry in Morocco.