Mohamed El Aboudi, Moroccan director

"I wanted to give voice to these marginal beings"


Mohamed El Aboudi, Moroccan director

Euromed Audiovisuel met Moroccan director Mohamed El Aboudi to discuss his documentary Dance of Outlaws at the Tangier Film Festival in February.

A Finnish-Norwegian co-production, this documentary film borrows its narrative codes from fiction to tell the story of Hind, a poor Moroccan woman who does not exist on paper, who was raped as a teenager, and who is a dancer and a prostitute who refuses to give up her dreams of motherhood, freedom, and love.

Mohamel El Aboudi was born in Morocco. He studied theatre at the University of Fez and filmmaking in Australia, then worked as a director in Finland, in particular for national television channel Yle. His first feature-length documentary Fight of Fate (2009) was nominated in 2010 for the Europa Prize in Berlin. His other films include City Folk Helsinki (2007), Inside / Offside (2006), Two Mothers (2005), Ramadan (2004), and My Father, the Freemason (2003).


Your film tackles a delicate subject, yet manages to do so without deference or clichés and with several uplifting moments. Why this story, and why this woman?

When I was young, perhaps 15 or 16 years old, I was moved by the story of a young woman in our neighbourhood. After she was raped aged 15, she became pregnant and her father threw her out of the house. She had brought shame on the family... Without any identification, as her family refused to give her birth certificate, she became marginalised, living in a certain freedom and frequently becoming pregnant. Then I lost sight of her. I never forgot her story and it made me want to make a film. I looked for young girls in the countryside who might have shared the same fate.

And that's how one day I found her. She was called Hind, she prostituted herself, and at the young age of 22 she had already been in prison several times and had had two children that she was forced to abandon. She danced at weddings. I had heard of Morocco's "wedding dancers". They are in high demand, but no one cares about them because they are considered to be prostitutes.

I wanted to find out more and I was horrified by their story, in particular by that of Hind. I felt that I had to talk about it. The life of these wedding dancers is a constant struggle for survival in a society that either completely ignores them or locks them up. These women live outside society, they have no means of identification, and when they become mothers, the vicious circle of poverty, violence, and despair passes on to the next generation...

Your film is a drama but contains happy moments and is almost a fiction starring an extraordinary actress, who, in the film, is both unstable and strong, as well as endearing and repulsive…

It took time but Hind really wanted to make the film. It took two years and a half to film, with breaks in the middle. It wasn't easy to produce the film. We received Finnish and Norwegian funding, via the MEDIA programme, and the film screened at Locarno, Dubai, FIPA, and Tangier… It was released in Finnish cinemas, but not in Moroccan cinemas.

As a filmmaker, I wanted to give voice to these marginal, powerless beings and tackle these issues that Morocco does not want to see. It's a fight against hypocrisy and the culture of honour and shame. Hind's story is also the story of other poor women, who are banished by society after they lose their virginity or who are forced to marry their rapist. Still today, one woman out of ten is married by force in Morocco, and virginity remains an absolute value for the honour of the bride's family.

What happens to Hind at the end of the film?  What are your new projects?

At the end of the film, Hind is pregnant again… The moment was important for the film, as if it was a link between the baby to be born and the Arab revolutions that were multiplying and planting hope in our societies....

But reality is a little different. Hind didn't succeed in obtaining any identification papers, so she still can't find work, receive social security, or rent a place to live. She could not keep her child. She is now in prison...

As for me, I'm trying to continue to work on two projects. The first allows me to address the effects of a dictatorship on a people, via a story of Egyptians who have fled to the United Arab Emirates... As for the second, I'm working on the story of two women: a Moroccan Berber dancer who lives in Finland, and a Finnish woman who travels to Egypt to dance, set to the backdrop of Arab revolutions and new Islamist forces in power.


Antonia Naim


Dance of Outlaws - Trailer:  

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