Making a splash on the Moroccan film scene is a new face – writer/director Said C. Naciri, who left Marrakesh to study film production in the USA at the Los Angeles Film School, and returned years later to shoot his first feature film, titled Kanyamakan – an action film that is said to rival Hollywood productions and that was recently released in Moroccan cinemas to much fan-fare, given that it’s not often that Moroccans are treated to Hollywood-style action movies made my Moroccan filmmakers.
Kanyamakan tells the story of a bank robbery gone wrong; Amir steals the loot from his bank robbery accomplices and goes into hiding in a village in the desert, where he falls right into the hands of the tyrannical Sharkan, who terrorizes the village, and who immediately sends Amir to the Kasbah jail, where he meets Shahin, head of the oldest and most prestigious local tribe, a wise and cunning man, who may or may not be able to lead Amir to what will be his destiny.
Director Naciri describes his film as a mixture of El Mariachi, Indiana Jones and Once Upon a Time in the West, adding that…
“My film is a bit like a UFO in the Moroccan cinematic universe… Our goal is to offer an irreverent twist to clichéd views of Moroccan culture and landmarks – this is a mixture of a fable and an action-adventure film whose primary goal is to entertain.”
Kanyamakan reportedly features some ambitious choreographed action sequences, executed by the film’s lead character, who is played by stuntman and fight choreographer, Mohamed El Achi, which certainly helps.
The lead cast is rounded out by Moroccan actor Afif Ben Badra, and French-Iranian actress Sarah Kazemy.
The film’s budget is listed at $2 million, and was shot with four Red One cameras with 220 hours of footage, and features ambitious special effects (3000 shots, 600 involve VFX), all of which accounted for much of the $2 million expense.
Moroccan news website Made In Marrakech caught up with the director for an interview, which I translated (in part) below:
Part of the film was shot in Marrakech. Why?
Kanyamakan begins and ends in Marrakech. The first scene takes place on the legendary Jemaa el Fna Square, a very cinematic location because of its natural wealth, which gives the film a mystical touch. We also asked for help from acrobats who perform in the square. They underwent intensive training for one year. We had 600 special effect shots and chase scenes performed by world-class stuntmen, including the Julienne family, who are behind those in James Bond films and other Hollywood blockbusters.
How did you choose your actors?
We needed faces that would speak to Moroccans. It’s difficult to find actors with action and acting skills. Mohammed el-Achi, the lead actor who was also the fight choreographer, had worked with director Luc Besson and the crew for The Incredible Hulk. We also had Affif Ben Badra, an actor and stuntman you might have seen in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows or Dany The Dog.
Could we say that you are the precursor of a new cinematic genre in Morocco?
I have often heard this suggested, especially after the film screening at the Marrakech International Film Festival and at the Tangier Film Festival. The film has been described as “a breath of fresh air” in local cinema. I wouldn’t claim to be the precursor of a new genre, but I am convinced that Kanyamakan is a turning point in Moroccan cinema.
Why is it important to go and see your film?
I think this film is a break with Moroccan cinema, and everything that has been done in it over the last 50 years.
It’s the first adventure and action film in Morocco. For once, its target audience is not limited, unlike for most of today’s films. I decided to make a film for the general public, without any age limit.
What are your plans after Kanyamakan?
I have started writing my next film and it’s still a work in progress, but the idea is taking shape day by day.
While buzz around the film remains local to Morocco, hopefully with some international press, it’ll travel outside the country (and the African continent) so that the rest of us can check it out! I’ll keep an eye out for an online debut on one of a handful of existing streaming sites that focus on African cinema.
In the meantime, here are 2 teaser trailers I dug up: