Much Loved trailers trigger outrage, prompt ban in Morocco

Friday 29/05/2015
Mired in controversy

Casablanca - Trailers for Much Loved, a film about prostitution by French-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch, have infuri­ated Moroccans since they were posted on YouTube, prompt­ing Rabat to ban its screening.

Moroccans took their anger to so­cial networks, condemning Ayouch for showing the trailers for the film, which depicts prostitution in Mar­rakech.

The first trailer attracted almost 1 million views on YouTube less than five days after Much Loved was among films screened in the 47th annual Directors’ Fortnight pro­gramme at the Cannes Film Festi­val.

Accustomed to cinema scandals with Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets and last year’s Les chevaux de Dieu (The Horses of God), Ayouch in one Much Loved trailer reveals a scene in which three prostitutes in a Mar­rakech taxi are getting ready before starting their evening, hoping for a rich Gulf Arab client.

In the second trailer, Gulf Arab clients talk negatively about the Palestinian issue around dinner, prompting the intervention of one of the prostitutes who felt pity for Palestinians.

The Moroccan government banned the film May 25th even be­fore Ayouch applied for a permit for it to be screened in cinemas. The Ministry of Communication called the film a grave outrage against moral values and Moroccan wom­anhood and a flagrant attack on the North African kingdom’s image.

Ayouch denounced the govern­ment’s decision as a threat to the freedom of expression of all Moroc­can artists.

Prior to the ban, outraged Moroc­cans called for the film’s censor­ship because it harms Moroccan women’s image in a society full of taboos.

Journalist and blogger Mayssa Salama Ennaji urged the banning of Much Loved.

“In my name as a Moroccan wom­an and in the name of all those who share my opinion and feel grief and sorrow for the absence of those who can protect us, I call on our King Mohammed VI, the Commander of the Faithful, to prevent Ayouch from showing his films in cinemas across Morocco,” wrote Ennaji in an open letter published on Efriqia website.

Aziz Hanaoui, writing on Face­book, dismissed Ayouch’s film as “savage Masonic propaganda that seeks to constantly provoke Moroc­cans’ feelings”.

“The [one-minute, 30-second] trailer is full of insults to both Mo­roccans and Palestinians, which makes people explode from human anger and resentment against those who became specialists in humiliat­ing Moroccans with the taxpayers’ money,” Hanaoui wrote.

Ayouch denied his film was sub­sidised by the Moroccan Cinemato­graphic Centre.

“This is utterly not true. We have not received a single dirham from taxpayers’ money. We have twice presented the project to the aid commission, which was refused for an unknown reason. The film is financed with my own funds,” Ayouch told the Arab Weekly.

The director interviewed more than 200 prostitutes before he wrote the script. The movie touch­es a taboo, tracing the lives of four women in the world of prostitution in Marrakech.

“Driven by extreme anger and jealousy on the sanctity of the nation and society, one must screaaaaaam… and be angry for God, the homeland, Palestine and for Moroccan women,” Hanaoui wrote. Another person on Facebook shared Hanaoui’s feelings.

“Because of this film I can’t say I am proud Moroccan… such acts are everywhere in the world and not only in Morocco. Now through this film the whole world will see Mo­rocco as a sex destination which is entirely wrong, ” said Doha Tkh on the film’s official Facebook page.

However, some people on social media support the film despite the strong language used by the actors.

“Frankly I admire your work that is recognised by only a few people whereas there should be a revolt to move conscience … Good luck,” wrote Bouthaina Haimed.

“To have an open mind, we must have the courage to challenge. Un­fortunately, only a few are ready to do it,” said Sinan Mouline Balafrej on Facebook.

A community page called Sout­ien à Nabil Ayouch (Support Nabil Ayouch) was created on Facebook to support the director against the pressures he has been subject to in Morocco. Hashtags such as # SOUTI­ENNABILAYOUCHE, # solidariténa­bilayouch and # libertéexpression are trending.

“I can’t wait to buy it, download it on ITunes and I am asking all my friends to do the same. Anyone who supports freedom of speech should do the same. Buy the movie or download it from ITunes,” wrote Naima Shea.

The ban is seen by liberal film­makers as another slap in the face for freedom of expression and me­dia in the conservative country, which is listed by Google as the fifth country in the world in terms of consultation of x-rated content.

Noureddine Lakhmari, whose films Casa Negra and Zero were also subject to huge criticism, lashed out at the ban.

“This controversy is sterile. We speak of a movie that most of those who criticise it have not seen it yet,” Lakhmari told Illionweb.

“Today filmmakers in the Arab- Muslim world have become in spite of them witnesses of the fragility, the deep malaise and the long and painful depression of our society.”