In Morocco, the pre-selection for the Oscars of Bleu du caftan brings hope for a dialogue on homosexuality

The second film by director Maryam Touzani, awarded at Cannes and at the Marrakech festival, could represent the country at the American ceremony in March.

The blue of the caftana Moroccan film on homosexuality shortlisted for the next Oscar ceremony might “contribute to creating a healthy and necessary debate» in his country, where the question still divides, believes its director, Maryam Touzani, in an interview with AFP. The film, Moroccan candidate for the Oscars, was selected last week among the 15 feature films pre-selected in the “Best Foreign Film” category of the prestigious American competition.

“It’s a huge honor to be able to represent Morocco and wear the country’s colors at this stage of the competition”Maryam Touzani told AFP. “The fact that my film represents Morocco is a step forward. The symbolism is beautiful and strong. This reflects a desire for openness and dialogue., says the director. His second feature film tells the story of Halim and Mina, a close-knit and uneventful couple who live with a heavy secret: the husband’s homosexuality.

The blue of the caftan was appointed by an official commission, made up of film professionals, to represent Morocco at the Oscars. A bold choice in a country where homosexuality, a largely taboo subject in a conservative society, divides public opinion and remains liable to six months to three years in prison, according to the Penal Code. “It hurts and hurts me to see people (in the LGBT+ community) living in hiding, in fear and having the expression of their love stifled, denied and judged,” laments the 42-year-old director. “My film can contribute to creating a healthy, necessary and salutary debate on this question”she hopes.

It is by changing mentalities that laws can evolve. I don’t think we can condemn love.

Maryam Touzani

It is in the medina of Salé, a town neighboring the capital Rabat, that the life of Mina and Halim – played by Belgian actress Lubna Azabal and Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri – changes with the arrival of a young apprentice. in their workshop for making caftans (traditional Moroccan dresses). The rapprochement between Youssef (played by Moroccan actor Ayoub Missioui) and his master tailor embarks them, along with Mina, on a new and plural experience of love.

“We often tend to put labels on love stories, but my deep desire was to tell them without passing judgment”, explains Maryam Touzani, who won the international critics’ prize for her film at the Cannes Film Festival. In fictional wonderland as in bitter reality, the director strongly believes that “Attitudes need to change”. And “it is by changing mentalities that laws can evolve. I don’t think we can condemn love.”she adds.

freedom to love

In Morocco, homosexuality is certainly penalised, but it is relatively less repressed than in other countries in the region, and prosecutions are not systematic. “The freedom to love belongs to us”, already defended the filmmaker to AFP in November on the sidelines of the Marrakech International Film Festival where his feature film received the jury prize.

The other facet of the film is the promotion of the artisanal making of the caftan, a garment traditionally worn on special occasions in Morocco. “The film also explores the love of a profession, that of the maalem (master tailor in the Moroccan Arabic dialect) which is tending to disappear. The evolution of the story is done in parallel with the making of the caftan.she explains.

The blue of the caftan is the second film representing Morocco to be shortlisted for the Oscars after Omar killed me of Franco Moroccan Roschdy Zem. The final list of nominated films will be revealed on January 24.

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In Morocco, the pre-selection for the Oscars of Bleu du caftan brings hope for a dialogue on homosexuality