Moroccan director’s new picture explores belly dance, religious tolerance and the horrors of war

Moroccan director’s new picture explores belly dance, religious tolerance and the horrors of war

“Asmahane”, a Moroccan movie recently nominated for Best Arab Feature Fiction at the Lebanese Independent Film Festival, recounts the story of a Lebanese girl who fled her country after losing her family to war, to become a belly dancer in Morocco, fitting in seamlessly into the north African country’s culture.

The Moroccan film also made it to the official selection of the anti-war independent film festival of Estonia.

Directed by Moroccan talent, Mohamed Jennane, the events take place in a scary Casablanca, where the main character, a Christian Lebanese woman, forges connections with Moroccans on her way to look for a better life.

Hoping to showcase Morocco’s religious tolerance, “Asmahane” is a drama starring a plethora of Moroccan stars, such as Oussama Bastaoui, Hajar Masdouki, Abdelatif Chaouqi, Sabah Benseddik, Ikham Karaoui, Chaht Man and the model Leila Hadioui.

Written by Mustapha Zaid Fakhi, the film traces the story of Asmahane from fleeing Lebanon to coming to Morocco, finding a job at a bar as a bellydancer, falling in love with a man called Adam, to being chased by a gangster who couldn’t resist her overflowing charms.

With “Asmahane”, Jennane put in years long of professional expertise to put forward the story of a refugee finding comfort in Morocco’s religious tolerance.

The Casablanca-born director previously dabbled in documentaries, feature films, shows, and commercials.

On how the film was born, the director told MoroccoLatestNews that he was intrigued to work on the theme of tolerance in Morocco. 

“I wanted to draw from a conflict of war an amusing fable, with morals,” he explained.

The choice to make this feature film a drama comes from the director’s belief that drama is a unique way of describing the peculiarities and failings of the human race and brings out absurd aspects of life.

The lead character, Asmahane, still suffering from the loss of her family, seeks to be accepted for who she is.  Adam, her lover, is confronted with both his fears and desires through the hectic events. 

Jennane allowed the actors to follow their intuitions in various scenes, welcome their additions, and trust their proposals.

However, in scenes that required his strict directives, the actors made sure to bring out their best.

He defines “Asmahane” as a mixture of genres, despite the overpowering dramatic aspect, it has romance, and comedy, and is a bit of a musical.

On whether he believes that spectators will get that the essence of the film revolves around religious tolerance, Jennane said “This is the purpose and main theme of the film. This is an omnipresent message throughout the film, especially through the protagonist. All the same, each viewer will read the message in his or her own way, but there is not only that, there is also drama and romance, and sometimes a bit of action.”


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