Film director Hakim Belabbes on heading Morocco’s film school, plans for the institute

Film director Hakim Belabbes on heading Morocco’s film school, plans for the institute

In an interview with MoroccoLatestNews, the new head of the Higher Institute of Audiovisual and Cinema Professions “ISMAC”, Hakim Belabbes discussed his designation, plans for the institute, and his lack of media presence.

The renowned film director is now the first professional filmmaker to head the institute ever since its opening in 2013. 

The news, now being celebrated by cinema students and professionals across Morocco, was revealed last week.The independent filmmaker, who previously occupied a teaching position at a Chicago-based university, expressed his deep gratitude for the designation and excitement for what’s to come.

Belabbes is known for his minimalist docu-fictions and dramatic feature films. With a career that began in 1992, the Bejjaad-born director positioned himself as a pioneer in the industry with a unique touch and perspective on Morocco and Morocaness, inspired by his native city.

Despite the new job not being “central to his thoughts, but just close,” the director always wondered what he could do to contribute something for young filmmakers in Morocco.

Within the framework of an institution such as ISMAC, Belabbes is hopeful that he can do great things and learn greater things through the young raw talents.

“The essence of me being here is to be able to give something back”, noted the director.

While not so active on socials, Belabbes saw a glimpse of how his designation is being widely celebrated by cinema lovers students, and cinema alike.

On why he isn’t that present in the virtual realm, with only an Instagram page created by his daughter, Belabbes said that “it’s to keep things within the frame of sanity.”

Emphasizing that he prefers real contact over forging virtual connections, Belabbes added that he sometimes “likes to find the time to be a little bit bored”.

As he embarks on this new journey, we asked the director what he expects from himself, to which he answered “It’s going to take me some getting used to in terms of adhering to the office hours,” however, he further stated, “I expect from myself to be committed 100% to what the institute can offer to its students between now and the end of the year.”

Belabbes said, “I wanna see good films being produced.”

On whether he will be teaching any classes, the director said “Very much so, I cannot ‘not’ teach,” as he believes that “you have to put your hands in it”, quoting an old Moroccan proverb.

Not thinking of this job as mainly administrative, Belabbes is a firm believer that if you want to lead you have to lead by example.

“Everything is connected, all the disciplines that relate to the film being everything that relates to life, directing editing writing poetry culture, it’s whatever that surrounds you .. Madinat Al Irfan (where the school is based) is a playground that I’d like students to explore, to make sure that people get the sense that this is a hub where everybody can meet, and we should have what it takes to attract people,” explained the director.

To conclude the interview, Belabbes vouches that the school will be showing a lot of movies.

Hakim Belabbes first began studying film in Lyon, France after finishing his English literature degree in Rabat. He traveled to the United States to continue his education, where he graduated from Columbia College in Chicago with a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema.

His father owned the only movie theater in Bejjaad, which explains where the director’s great passion for such art comes from.

His latest feature film, released in 2022, “Collapsed Walls”, is a tribute to his native city. It tells the story of several people filmed through Belabbes’s delicate eye and particular attention to detail, as the story changes from one family and another and one plotline to another.

His father’s cinema is always found at the heart of his production, being a central piece in how cinema found a way into his life and introduced him to a marvelous world.

Belabbes took over the ISMAC torch from Abderrazak Ezzaher, who was the institute’s director for the past four years, and a previous professor there.

Prior to Ezzaher, Benaissa Asloune, who is currently the general director of the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA), headed ISMAC for a brief time before being appointed to the HACA.

In a heartfelt message bidding well to ISMAC, Ezzaher wrote on Facebook “Congratulations to the Moroccan director Hakim Belabbes. Director Hakim Belabbes has become the new director of the Higher Institute of Audiovisual and Cinema Professions in Rabat, starting today. We wish him success and excellence…and that he succeeds where I failed as a former director of the same institute. Thank you to the hidden soldiers…” 

ISMAC graduates as well as currently enrolled students and cinema professionals all celebrated the news, excited that one of the biggest names in Moroccan cinema will get to raise the upcoming generation of cinema professionals.

Many people are quite optimistic about the future of the institute and are looking forward to the changes that Belabbes will make. 


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