28/05/2014

Morocco’s La Prod and France’s Iliade team for Gaya Jiji’s My Favorite Fabric

The Syrian director took part in this year’s Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde in Cannes

Morocco, Syria

Morocco’s La Prod and France’s Iliade team for Gaya Jiji’s My Favorite Fabric

Lamia Chraibi’s La Prod, one of Morocco’s most go-ahead production companies -- and a member of the South Mediterranean distributors network MEDIS -- has teamed with Paris-based Iliade&Films, headed by Tatiana Bouchain and Oury Mylstein, to produce Syrian director Gaya Jiji’s My Favorite Fabric, a pioneering Syria-set depiction of female sexuality, reports Variety.

Given that such a subject is taboo in Syria, My Favorite Fabric is another envelope-pushing movie for La Prod whose films have already pushed back the boundaries of Arab cinema in Morocco.

A Paris-based exile after recent civil conflict in Syria, Jiji’s debut feature, the Damascus-set Fabric, turns on Nahla, a young single Christian woman who is devasted when Samir, a rich US-based Syrian looking for a wife, visits the family but decides to marry Nahla’s beautiful sister Myriam instead. Nahla takes refuge in a mysterious house, a place where people go to satisfy their fantasies.

While many projects at this year’s Cannes’ Cinemas du Monde section proved critiques of arcane but enduring traditions, Fabric shows Nahla to be a victim of both Arab world customs and global concepts of female beauty.

“Nahla’s beauty does not respect today’s norms: She is like the Venus of Willendorf, concealing her fears and desires,” Jiji has said.

“A woman in Syria, whether Christian or Muslim, will have problems with taboos, her relationship with body, her sexuality, which has more to do with social than religious questions,” she added.

Nahla finally attempts to achieve a freedom as an individual. “That is a kind of emancipation,” said Chraibi.

Following Nahla’s point of view, even to the point of voyeurism, Fabric will mix the real and unreal, in the style of Luis Bunuel, per Jiji.

“We hope My Favorite Fabric will be a kind of Syrian Belle du jour. We just have to find a less beautiful Catherine Deneuve,” said Chraibi.

“Syrian films haven’t really focused on female sexuality, it has at best been left in the background,” said Jiji.

The winner of a €10,000 ($13,650) screenplay development grant from France’s 2013 Amiens Festival, Fabric was also selected for the Morocco-based Meditalents script development workshop, focusing on young Mediterranean-Arab first feature filmmakers.

Picking up on the themes of Gaya Jiji’s less-than-two-minutes-long Morning, Noon, Evening… and Morning, in which a woman who divorces from her husband, asserts her right to custody of her son and her own sex life, Fabric is at third-draft screenplay, with Jiji initiating location scouting and casting.

Jiji met Bouchain when both worked at Les Films d’Ici.

Given civil war in Syria, financing for My Favorite Fabric will have to come from outside the country, from Arab countries, France and world cinema support systems such as the Sorfund-Norwegian South Film Fund, or the Berlin Festival’s World Cinema Fund, said Chraibi.

Morocco or the Lebanon could stand in for Damascus, she added. Cast will be in principle Syrian, per Jiji, given the high-level of young graduates from Syrian acting schools.

Set up by Chraibi in 2007, La Prod is a film/TV production house specializing in militant fiction production.

However oblique, Chraibi’s films have constantly pushed the envelope with depiction of such taboos as the repression of women (Hicham Lari’s 2011 The End and Narjis Nejjar’s The Rif Lover, a Carmen makeover, both from 2011), political apathy (Lasri’s 2013 They Are the Dogs) and the 2010 AIDs-themed three-part portmanteau film Angels’ Terminal, directed by Nejjar, Lasri and Mohamed Mouftakir.

“In Morocco, what’s dangerous is self-censorship. It’s insidious. I refuse to practice it,” said Chraibi.

 

Source: Variety

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