You are a writer, and a photographer, but mainly a filmmaker. What made you pursue filmmaking?
I started making films when I was really young and it became more and more serious as I got older. I think that cinema has a privileged relationship with time and the immediacy of the world around us. It’s different to language, because it’s like blocks of time that work like pure thought. Along with thinking, writing or even philosophy, for me these are just tools that demonstrate a creative act, thus the creation of concepts. I have a particular soft spot for cinema and photography but poetry is very important in my life too, maybe even beyond film.
Being a Moroccan-Iraqi, born in London, how does this multicultural background impact your vision as a Filmmaker or artist?
Well, speaking different languages, coming from different places impacts my life and how I carry myself in the world. I feel very Moroccan, since my mother’s family brought me up; they’re part of me, my father’s family too but in a different way. London is where I grew up but then America is where I was educated and where I spent the longest part of my life. We live in a world of extreme nationalism, and I think that people who come from many different countries and open diverse societies is something that is under threat. I think that a person who comes from nowhere and everywhere is beneficial to any society that wants to progress…
Having spent most of your life in London and New York, why are most of your works focused on issues related to the MENA region?
It’s because I feel deep solidarity also. I have American and English friends, who own the position to contribute to their country’s cultural-intellectual production, but I feel solidarity with here. Maybe tomorrow it’ll change but for the moment here is where I feel most at home. Though I chose to live in Morocco, which I love deeply, because it’s the country of my mother, but I’m a cosmopolitan person. I’m made up of many different things.
As a woman with an ethnic background in this industry, is it an advantage or a drawback?
Forget cinema, it’s difficult for woman everywhere. In the workforce women don’t get equal pay, in different societies women are getting aggressed… But the masks are off. It was always hard, but I think there’s been some sort of progression even politically in lots of countries.
What about women’s representation?
Yes it’s very important but representation is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just a superficial side of things. The real question is would you share real power with us women? And that’s not to say that there aren’t men who would but just that the antiquated machismo system is getting very tired.
You are an award winning director and producer, and your films have been screened in lots of film festivals around the world. What would you consider to be your greatest achievement till date?
I don’t know… I still think there is so much work to be done. We had a discussion among the jury members the other day about awards and how they’re meaningless and the bottom line is these are achievements that you celebrate for a moment but then it’s over and you’ll have to start working from zero. There is no achievement because it’s a process. The main thing is to focus on what does your work, whatever the vocation, really mean. The real challenge is how one can be honest in a dishonest world.
What are your thoughts about this particular edition of Marrakech Film Festival?
I think it’s really good! The quality of the films’ selection is very high; they come from all over the world: Egypt, Mexico, Morocco… In addition to the “Ateliers de l’Atlas”, that support cinema from fragile economies. Although the festival is Moroccan since we are in Morocco, but it’s simultaneously open and not just to Europe, but to Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America … so it’s like an international exchange. It shows the diversity of the Moroccan society that could be even more open.
As a jury member, what makes a film or a performance good for you?
Just some form of truthfulness. Some touch of life and realism in it. Again, a film that projects some honesty in a dishonest world.
What are you next projects?
I’m working on three projects. One is a documentary, another is a fiction and the last is a hybrid of fiction/ documentary. I’ve been traveling all year with the last film I made, Tigmi Nigren (House in the fields) and I figured it’s time to stop and start filming. They are all portraits, one of which is the portrait of a city in Morocco. I actually find Morocco to be an endless source of inspiration…