‘Disco Africa,’ ‘Inshallah A Boy’ Play Expansive Atlas Workshops

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MARRAKECH — Filmmaker teams from as far afield as Burkina Faso, Qatar and Palestine headed to Morocco this weekend for the Production and Post Production section of industry and talent mentoring program the Atlas Workshops, which runs Nov. 14-17  at the Marrakech Film Festival.

“There has been a big interest in Arab cinema for a few years now,” said Thibaut Bracq, head of Atlas Workshops. “The support came at the right moment. Big festivals now have an interest in attending our event because they know there are interesting projects in this and other sections.”

Hot titles include “Disco Africa,” the first feature from Madagascar to take part in the program. With connections to the city, Luck Razanajaona, the filmmaker, studied in Marrakech at the École Supérieure d’Audiovisuel. 

Meanwhile, “Inshallah a Boy,” which is in early post production, is the first feature to take part from Jordan. People familiar with the title say that director Amjad Al Rasheed presents a powerful film with a great performance from actor Muna Hawa. 

The documentary feature by Lina Soualem, “Bye, Bye Tiberias,” is a story about her family and her mother, Palestine’s Hiam Abbass. It is, according to reports, a powerful and moving film about Palestine. 

Many of the films demonstrate what Bracq said is a growing trend towards co-production in the region. 

“Inshallah” is a perfect example. It’s a Jordan-Saudi Arabia-Egypt-Qatar production; “Chopped” brings together Palestine, Norway and Sweden.

“One of the trends is that a lot of the projects are really trying to work at a political and economic level to embrace co-productions between these countries,” said Bracq. 

He added: “Another trend is seeing a new generation of producers emerging from the Arab world and Africa. A lot try to reach Atlas as a stamp of approval. Industry players look here to see what’s next.” The lineup: 

“Inshallah a Boy,” (The Imaginarium Films, Jordan-Saudi Arabia-Egypt-Qatar)

A debut feature for Amjad Al Rasheed, which follows a widow at risk of losing her home after her husband dies, because of patriarchal inheritance laws. The director is a Berlinale Talents alum.I n post-production, winning an award at Venice’s Final Cut, and “Inspired by the reality of many, sharing a topic of heavy significance, it dives into the stance of women’s rights in the Swana/MENA region, co-existing in a time of thriving Western women rights movements,”  said producer Rula Nasser. “We need to open up the discourse of women rights in the Swana/MENA world, within the context of women’s oppression under conservative cultural and religious assumptions.”

“A Golden Life,” (Merveilles Production, Burkina Faso-Benin-France)

Directed by writer/director/film lawyer Boubacar Sangaré, this project is in post production. It follows a 16-year-old boy working in the gold mines to support his dreams. The innocence of childhood is soon lost. In 2015, Sangaré co-directed a television documentary on the insurrection in Burkina Faso. 

“Bye Bye Tiberias,” (Beall Productions, Palestine – France – Belgium – Qatar)

In her second feature, Lina Soualem (“Their Algeria”), the daughter of actress Hiam Abbass, goes back with a camera to Palestine to the village in Galilea to her mother’s village. Her film looks at four generations of women in her family that have influenced her, as well as exile, and memory. 

Bye Bye Tiberias
Courtesy of Marrakech Film Festival

“Cabo Negro,” (Barney Production, Morocco-France)

Abdellah Taïa’s second feature inspired by two gay Moroccan youths on Instagram. Vacationing in Morocco’s Cabo Negro, they decide to make the best of it at a villa rented by an American lover who doesn’t show. An award-winning author, Taïa’s first film “The Salvation Army,” which played Venice and Toronto and won a Sundance Institute Global Filmmaking Award, was based on his own novel of the same name.

“Chopped,” (Idiom Films, Palestine-Norway-Sweden)

VFX artist, editor and director’s assistant  Karam Ali (“Doors of Fear”) and first-time director Casey Asprooth-Jackson put viewers behind the wheels of cars stolen as a form of resistance by Palestinians during the Second Intifada. Asprooth-Jackson produces out of Ramallah-based Idioms Film and is an industry programmer for the Palestine Film Institute. His recent production credits include “Ibrahim: A Fate to Define.” “I was drawn to ‘Chopped’ by the bold approach of its directors. Through the intrigue of a car heist, ‘Chopped’ delivers a new account of Palestine’s post-Oslo condition, with a street sensibility that will appeal to a whole new generation of film viewers.”

“Disco Africa,” (We Film, Madagascar-France-South Africa)

Luck Razanajaona’s first feature follows a 20-something working at the sapphire mines in Madagascar. An event takes him home to a small town where he must decide between easy money and loyalty, and navigate the country’s corrupt systems. Razanajaona graduated from the Marrakech School of Visual Art in 2011. He has taken part in the Berlinale Talent Campus, Rotterdam Lab and La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde in Cannes. “‘Disco Afrika’ is a story influenced by the moods and fashions of the ’70s, when many values and civic movements emerged in the aftermath of independence throughout Africa,” said producer Jonathan Rubin. “This marked an artistic and musical awakening, which was a continuation of the struggles of the independence movements.”

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