Following his Oscar contending “God’s Horses” (the film was Morocco’s submission for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award, although it didn’t make the final cut), which follows a group of young men growing up in poverty, Ayouch’s latest, titled “Expired,” is about the marginalized lives of 4 women prostitutes living in Marrakech.
Of the independently-financed French-Moroccan co-production, director Ayouch says: “I decided to keep the budget low in order to safeguard my freedom of expression.”
While prostitution is widespread in Morocco, it’s also a social taboo, which led to the Moroccan Cinema Centre rejecting it when Ayouch presented the project to them, twice; and so he decided to move forward with it solo.
As for what we can expect, he says: “I want to go beneath the surface and show the real lives of these women, who are treated extremely badly. Many people come to Marrakech for sex — from the Gulf countries, from Europe. They treat these women extremely badly. They have a kind of superiority complex — just because they have money they think they can buy everything.”
He also says that the film will tackle the complex relationships between prostitutes and their families, given that some parents even push their children into prostitution.
Comparing the story to that told in his “God’s Horses,” Ayouch adds: “In both cases, the main characters are marginalized. I’ve always been attracted by this theme. It’s very close to me — trying to depict the army that lives in the shadows. People who have lots of things to say and express. We normally don’t want to hear them — even if what they have to say is very important.”
Expect what he describes as “fictions du réel,” which suggests a documentary-style shooting approach to the film, giving it a certain realism, which should only be amplified with a cast made up of non-professional and professional actors, with some dialogue improvised.
“At present we’re seeing a new kind of filmmaking from the US and Europe, that makes us believe that we’re in the middle of reality. People don’t normally expect to see this style of filmmaking from the Arab world,” he says.
Principal photography recently wrapped (on December 15).
Despite their rejection of “Expired,” the Morrocan Cinema Centre did recently grant Ayouch a $500,000 grant for his next feature film, titled “Razzia,” which I previously profiled on this blog. As a refresher, it’s a sci-fi/futuristic project that imagines what the Arab world will look like 50+ years from now. The plot focuses on a tiny, privileged elite living in high-security enclaves cut off from the poor masses. The story will be told through the eyes of characters from each world.
Ayouch is also in preproduction on that film, currently working with architects, matte paintings and 3D special effects to make the city featured in the plot look like a mixture of traditional and high-tech buildings.
By the way, “God’s Horses” is streaming on Netflix right now…