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Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Picks Include: Rick Famuyiwa’s ‘Dope’ + Nabil Ayouch’s ‘Much Loved’

Cannes Directors' Fortnight Picks Include: Rick Famuyiwa's 'Dope' + Nabil Ayouch's 'Much Loved'

Rick Famuyiwa’s buzzy Sundance 2015-selected dramedy “Dope” will close the Directors’ Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) at the Cannes Film Festival next month. The sidebar is an independent section held in parallel to the Cannes Film Festival that showcases a program of shorts and feature films, as well as documentaries from all over the world.

Open Road has set a June 12 release date for Famuyiwa’s “Dope,” putting it in direct competition with the usual blockbuster summer fare.

None of us here at S&A has screened the film yet, but that’s a problem that will be rectified soon, as early press screenings begin. 

Zoë Kravitz, Keith Stanfield, Kimberly Elise, rap stars A$AP Rocky and Tyga all appear in the new feature film by Famuyiwa (“The Wood,” “Brown Sugar,” “Our Family Wedding”), which is described as a coming of age story about geeks growing up in Inglewood, California, trying to avoid gangs, drugs, and crime.  

Starring Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons, the film follows a trio of best friends who are also in their own hip hop – punk band. 

Further, from the official synopsis: “Malcolm is a high school geek with a high-top fade, carefully navigating life in The Bottoms, one of the toughest neighborhoods in Inglewood, California. He and his fellow outcasts share a voracious appreciation for all things ’90s hip-hop, opting to sport Cross-Colors and Z. Cavariccis at the risk of being clowned at school. He dreams of attending Harvard, but first he has to make it home every day. When a drug dealer takes a shine to Malcolm and invites him to his birthday party, Malcolm’s crew is swirled into a hilarious blender of offbeat characters and bad choices where redemption can only be found in Bitcoin.”

Significant Productions’ Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station”) are producing the film, which will feature original music by Pharrell Williams.

Also selected for the Cannes 2015 Directors’ Fortnight sidebar program is Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch’s follow-up to his 2012 film, “God’s Horses,” which competed in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

Titled “Much Loved,” the drama, said to be a stark social drama about prostitution, is set in Marrakech today, and follows Noha, Randa, Soukaina, and Hlima, 4 prostitutes struggling to survive and thrive in the major city in northwest Morocco.

Maybe Morocco’s best-known contemporary director, Ayouch’s “Much Loved” follows 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. Previously titled “Expired,” “Much Loved” is an independently-financed French-Moroccan co-production, which director Ayouch says was intentional because, “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.

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 – 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…

Here is the complete Directors’ Fortnight lineup of feature films:

Opening film
“In the Shadow of Women,” Philippe Garrel

Closing film
“Dope,” Rick Famuyiwa

“Allende,” Marcia Tambutti
“A Perfect Day,” Fernando Leon de Aranoa
“Green Room,” Jeremy Saulnier
“The Cowboys” (“Les Cowboys”), Thomas Bidegain
“Fatima,” Philippe Faucon
“Embrace of the Serpent” (“El abrazo de la serpiente”), Ciro Guerra
“Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” Chloe Zhao
“Much Loved,” Nabil Ayouch
“Mustang,” Deniz Gamze Erguven
“Peace to Us in Our Dreams,” Sharunas Bartas
“The Here After” (“Efterskalv”), Magnus von Horn
“The Brand New Testament” (“Le Tout Nouveau Testament”), Jaco Van Dormael
“Arabian Nights”, Miguel Gomes
“My Golden Years”, Arnaud Desplechin

Special screening
“Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War of the Underworld” (“Gokudo daisenso”), Takashi Miike

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