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Nabil Ayouch; Morocco’s Award-winning Writer and Film-Maker

Nabil Ayouch

Nabil Ayouch is one of the most respected filmmakers of North Africa and the Middle East and his latest film has garnered him nominations around the world including the  Oscars and Golden Globes.

Born April 1, 1969 in Paris, Nabil Ayouch spent most of his growing years in Sarcelles in a modest home. His mother was a French teacher, and his father was the founder of the Zakoura Foundation, a bank on the model of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh which lends to the poor at very low interest rates.

After three years of acting classes in Paris from 1987-1990, Nabil started his career as a scriptwriter and director with the advertising agency Euro-RSCG. An experience he now considers as “a good observation platform to understand how a shoot works.”

The young Nabil cut his directing tooth by internships which brought him even closer to implementing his dreams and before long, he was sailing the seas,  from one side to the other of the Mediterranean, seeking and handling multiple projects.

In 1992, he directed the ‘Blue stones of the Desert’; his first short film with Jamel Debbouze which tells the story of a young man convinced that there are large blue stones in the desert. The success of his first short, assured Nabil of a truth he had known all his life; he was born to weave stories and bring them to life!

In 1997, Nabil directed his first feature film, ‘Mektoub’ about an uncompromising cop who uncovers the grimy underbelly of the Moroccan society; rife with corruption, abuse of power, inequality, and drug abuse. The film was a hit at the Moroccan box office and represented Morocco at the Oscars.

In 1999, despite the challenges of film-making in his native country of Morocco, Nabil Ayouch created his own production company in Casablanca (Ali N’Productions) to discover new local talent and through which he helps young directors to launch their careers with initiatives such as the Mohamed Reggab Award, a script and production competition for short films.

Nabil Ayouch

His filmography includes:

As Director:

Pierres bleues du désert, Les (1992)

Mektoub (1997)

Ali Zaoua, prince de la rue (2000) aka Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets (USA)

Une minute de soleil en moins (2003) (TV) aka A Minute of Sun Less (International: English title)

Whatever Lola Wants (2007)

God’s Horses (2012)

As a Writer:

Pierres bleues du désert, Les (1992)

Mektoub (1997)

Ali Zaoua, prince de la rue (2000) aka Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets (USA)

Une minute de soleil en moins (2003) (TV) aka A Minute of Sun Less (International: English title)

Whatever Lola Wants (2007) co-written with Jane Hawksley

As a Producer:

Ali Zaoua, prince de la rue (2000) (associate producer) aka Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets (USA)

Asides from directing and producing films, Nabil is also interested in the development of the filmmakers and so he founded the G.A.R.P. (Group of Authors, Directors, Producers) in 2002 and the Moroccan Coalition for Cultural Diversity in 2003.

In 2006, he launched the Meda Films Development programme – with the support of the European Union and the International Film Festival Foundation of Marrakech, a structure to accompany producers and scriptwriters from the ten countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean in the development phase of their films.

Nabil Ayouch

Unfazed by opposition, Nabil participated in the creation of the Moroccan Anti- piracy Association, in 2008.

In 2009, he created and directed the closing show of the World Economic Forum of Davos, after having directed several live shows such as the opening of “Temps du Maroc” in France at the Palace of Versailles in 1999.

In 2011, Nabil released his first documentary feature film, MY LAND, which was filmed in the Middle East, and in 2012, Nabil Ayouch finished Horses Of God, a tragic film inspired by the Casablanca suicide bombings of May 16th 2003.

Kino Lorber has since acquired all United States rights to Nabil Ayouch’s “Horses of God,” which was Morocco’s foreign-language Oscar entry, for the 2013 Oscars for U.S. distribution.

“We were immensely impressed by Nabil Ayouch’s filmmaking artistry, fusing sensitivity and brutality in this terrifyingly authentic portrayal of the making of a suicide bomber,” said Richard Lorber, CEO of Kino Lorner. “It’s a profoundly compelling work of cinematic fiction that reveals more truth than any news report.”

In an interview with concerning his film, ‘Horses of God’ Nabil opined certain reason for the presence of suicide bombers in our societies.

“The first thing the film is saying is that there’s not one reason why a young boy can turn into a suicide bomber. There are many of them.

Of course, poverty is a fertile ground for that, but I guess what I felt was most evident when I spent some time in the shanty town is that those people felt totally abandoned. Those young boys, it’s like they’re cut off, cut off from the rest of the society.

The family doesn’t play its part anymore. There is no father authority. There is no family structure around them to give them care, love and authority. And the State doesn’t play its part anymore, either.
So when those fanatic people come to them and tell them they have a future, even if this future isn’t bright, even if this future is to become a martyr, they jump into it because the fruit is already mature.”

Do you agree? Is the family structure in African societies dysfunctional? How can that malaise and other factors be rectified to stem this disturbing trend of suicide bombing and terrorism?

Kudos to Nabil for making a film that highlights these issues in order to cause change.

What were you born to do? And how can it create positive change?

Learn. Think. Act. Repeat.

Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya
Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya
5 Things You Didn't Know About Jennifer in 2015: 1. Her newest collection of short stories, 'The Curious Case of the Small Pikin & Other Stories' is available on 2. She ported from Blogger to WordPress and shares her uncensored thoughts on 3. She is an aspiring Filmmaker & Talk-show Host[ess] 4. She's a mother of two, wife of one and daughter of God. 5. She plans to travel around the world in less than 80 days... Now you Know! Find me on Twitter: @jennynkem

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