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People in Film: Faouzi Bensaidi

Feb 14, 2012

Moroccan-born actor, writer and director Faouzi Bensaidi had his debut feature, “A Thousand Months”, shown at Cannes in 2003. His latest film, “Death For Sale”, is being shown at the Berlin film festival this week.

DFI: Your latest film starts with a robbery at a jewel store. Why?
Bensaidi: Why not? When I was shooting those scenes, I was thinking about directing the greatest heist scene of all time. In so many Western films, a heist scene is often directed with great visual style and flair. I was aiming for the same thing. As Arab film makers, we should aspire to rise to the level of Hitchcock and Tarantino, the greats.

DFI: That’s an interesting point – too often, it seems, Arab film makers are content to make films for Arab audiences. Do you think this is to their detriment?
Bensaidi: Very much so. Especially in these connected times. I think Arab film making should aspire to be the equal of all film making. We cannot afford to make films for our own audiences anymore. We should be stepping onto a global stage – and competing with our peers.

DFI: “Death For Sale” is quite stylised – how did you achieve a sense of pace?
Bensaidi: I wanted to make a film that people found exciting. I think we don’t make enough of these films in the Arab world. We sometimes rely too heavily on comedy to tell our stories. It is time to explore other genres.

DFI: There was an eight year gap between your last film and “Death For Sale”. Does this reflect funding problems?
Bensaidi: Well, I spent a long time working on the script and fine tuning the details. I don’t think film making can be rushed. It is a slow process; writers have to spend time thinking about what they are trying to say. I wanted to make a film which said something about the economic situation in my country – but at the same time, offered the viewer a sense of hope.

DFI: Can you describe some of the challenges faced by directors in Morocco?
Bensaidi: The economic crisis has hit Morocco as hard as the rest of the world. But I do feel very proud to be a Moroccan film maker at this moment in time. We have a very supportive government and a wide range of film expertise. A new generation of film makers, who came through in the mid Nineties, is making some very interesting films. Morocco now produces around 19 or 20 features a year.

DFI: Morocco has not been as affected by the Arab Spring in the same way as some of its neighbours. Do you think this will have an effect on the films we see over the next few years?
Bensaidi: I think it is too early to say. There are so many changes happening right now, and they will affect all of us in some shape or form. I think social economics will be a theme over the next few years – as people find it difficult to obtain work. That will certainly be reflected in the films we see. But I think people are still unsure. We will have to take our time to figure out how these changes will be relevant to us.

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