The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

10 December 2012

Asmae El Moudir: Filmmaking has been my dream since a child

Asmae El Moudir
By Amina Barakat, Rabat, Maroc, guest journalist for the African Women in Cinema Blog

Filmmaker and screenwriter Asmae El Moudir, very active on the Moroccan cinema scene, works non-stop with several diverse projects on her menu. She directs short films, clips, theatre plays, and documentary films and is also passionate about photography and editing.

Asmae is currently working on her childhood dream, often inspired by her entourage, the places through which she passes. For Asmae, every being has a history, which she tries to tell, adding her ingredients. She adeptly weaves the pieces of this ensemble of people, events and places, already formulated from her imaginary.

In the festivals and meetings in which she participates, she does not go unnoticed; among many of the talented young film professionals, Asmae was on the spotlight at the 12th edition of the Mediterranean Festival of Moroccan Short Films in Tangiers in 2012.

The young filmmaker received an award for her film La Dernière balle | The Last Bullet, which was an audience favourite at the 2nd edition of the Short Film Festival of Rabat in 2011. 

Her current repertory of films include: Les Couleurs du silence | The Colours of Silence (2011), La Dernière balle | The Last Bullet (2011), Quand Saint Valentin voit rouge | When St. Valentine sees Red (2010), Mémoire perturbée | Disrupted Memory (2009).

An enjoyable encounter with Asmae, who was eager to respond to my questions: 

Asmae, why did you choose to go behind the camera while so many young women dream of being in front of this magical eye?

It's a choice for which I take full responsibility because it is a dream that I have always had, to tell stories that fascinated me. I work from a particular perspective, with a desire to break conventions. Indeed, to be in front of the camera is the dream of many women, but to tell stories about these characters is another pleasure, and why not do it from behind the camera? Since women have made advances in cinema, and have shown their capabilities in the profession, it is normal to see women filmmakers bring their experiences from a female perspective. What is important for me is that I have a feeling for what I do.

Are there specific themes that you like to work on?

In fact, I do not have pre-determined subject matter. When I have a love for something I attempt to develop and recount the story in my own way. I have kept many memories from my childhood that I want to hone; those little things that were part of my surroundings when I visited my grandparents; I try to draw from these things. I focus a great deal on the treatment of the script, which gives me a particular relationship with ideas.

As the technical crew is generally composed of men, as a woman do you encounter problems as a director?

At the start of my career, I worked with my colleagues, young professionals who wanted to support me. It was great to work with them; it was an opportunity to show that women exist. It's true that filmmaking requires a lot of effort but the perception that a woman is not strong disappears the moment that she begins to work, and a female sensibility is definitely evident. Moreover, I notice that actresses feel comfortable with me; that’s an asset.

Asmae  El Moudir, is she for or against  "women's cinema"?

For me there is no such thing as a “women's cinema” and a male cinema, there is simply a cinema, which is a universal language and exists at all levels. Perhaps in terms of themes there may be a difference in treatment, each perhaps has her or his own signature. Otherwise one may have the idea that “this” cinema is for women and “this” one is for men, which is not the purpose of this art.

Do you think that the various festivals in Morocco could contribute to the promotion of Moroccan cinema?

Yes, I think so, I find it to be a plus, especially in view of the problems with cinema houses, which continue to close and thus there are fewer and fewer of them. Therefore, festivals provide a good opportunity for the public as well as for the cinema industry. People seek out this art and confront this lack. This is not to say that festivals replace cinema houses but they do play an important role in the promotion of national cinema. International festivals are also very important as they provide an opportunity to see foreign films that we do not otherwise get a chance to view. There are also film professionals who frequent the festivals with whom we have contact, which in terms of experiences, is an exchange that is beneficial to everybody.

What are your views regarding film co-productions?

The new generation is conscious of this issue because in order to convince a review jury one must present a script that is three times as good! One cannot actually say that there are co-productions for short films. It is rather difficult for features, as it requires considerable funding, which is not easy to obtain. Otherwise there are commissioned projects. Also producers must make a profit. For short films one must really work hard to find a producer and do a lot of convincing that this project is worthwhile and ensure that it moves forward. Unfortunately there are not many production companies or a politic in place that encourages film production. 

In fact, it is for our love of cinema that we draw our courage to make films, and go beyond all the problems. 

Are there challenges to being a woman filmmaker?

At the beginning it was a challenge, but afterwards it became a profession, a love. I feel satisfied with this profession. My dreams take time to actualise but I continue to dream, especially when I see the images pass in front of me, like babies they have to be cared for. To make a choice is to take responsibility for this choice, with the pros and the cons regardless of gender.

Translated from French by Beti Ellerson