Sean Gulette, American director of US-Moroccan co-production Traitors

"Some young people have the power to change their destiny"


Sean Gulette, American director of US-Moroccan co-production Traitors

Malika is the leader of the all-female punk rock band Traitors, with a strong vision of the world, her hometown of Tangier, and her place in it. When she needs money to save her family from eviction, and to realise her dreams for the band, Malika agrees to a fast cash proposition: a smuggling run over the mountains for a dangerous drug dealer.

Malika is the main character in Traitors, a US-Moroccan co-production and the directorial debut of now Morocco-based American filmmaker Sean Gullette.

After the feature was released in Moroccan cinemas on June 11, Mohammed Bakrim interviewed the director for Euromed Audiovisual.

Traitors is your first feature film. What can you tell us about your film career?

I started by playing the leading role in Darren Aronofsky's Pi which I co-wrote with him. [In the US thriller released in 1998, Sean Gullette plays the mathematical genius Max Cohen.] Then I worked a lot as an actor in the US, Europe and the Middle East. I also work as a screenwriter in the US and in France.

In 2005, I moved to Tangier out of love for Yto Barrada, who is an artist and a founder of the Tangier Cinémathèque. After five years in Tangier, I found the courage to write a short film with Moroccan characters, including Malika, the film's main character.

What triggered the script for Traitors: Malika or Tangier?

Malika is my kind of girl. Some young people have the power to change their destiny and their environment. They act daringly because they are convinced that their intentions are pure, and that their power can therefore be transcendent, intelligent and ruthless. It's not surprising that music, revolutionary politics and life on the verge of crime are at heart of youth's experience: All three can expand our powers in an almost miraculous way. Adults can look down on these youth with condescending smiles, but when young people like Malika confront logic established in a world of adults, many things can change, as the traffickers soon learn in Traitors.

One of the strengths of the film is its female cast, including Ben Chaimae Acha and the much-awaited return of Soufia Issami…

I saw the film many times but I still get goose bumps when I see Chaimae and Soufia on screen. They are so different and so honest!

Chaimae is a very decent and conservative girl. This is how I perceived her when we met at a casting at the Cinémathèque. After I had seen her, I cancelled the following casting sessions. In real life, Chaimae is very quiet, conservative, and when you see her acting you see the range of talent she has. She tapped into her instinct as an actress to understand what she had in common with Malika: personal integrity, this complete inability to compromise or do things by halves. 

I saw Soufia in Cannes at the first screening of On the Edge, a film by Leila Kilani whom I admire. I approached Soufia at the party following the screening. I learned a lot by working with her. She’s a real artist, she only expresses herself with her own words and gestures, and so she says nothing but the truth.


Interview by Mohammed Bakrim

Translation: Jana Idris

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