Life lessons: Ahmed El Maanouni

The Moroccan film director shares his wisdom with M magazine.

Ahmed El Maanouni will appear at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival on October 16th at Marina Mall.
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The Moroccan film-maker Ahmed El Maanouni came to international attention when his film Trances (Al Hal) was presented by Martin Scorsese at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. His 1978 debut, Alyam Alyam (Oh the Days!), will be screened at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival

1. Stories should be told their own way. I am a storyteller and my concern as an Arab filmmaker is to share our true emotions, not only giving back to the western world their own vision. Since my first film, Alyam Alyam, I have tried to play out an original vision where truth and correctness are a matter of nuance and respect. The truer the image, character and scenario, the better the chance that the film reaches universality.

2. A film is made to last. Its emotional charges and its messages should remain forever. We are not aware of the richness of our film heritage in the Arab world, let alone do we understand why and how we should preserve it. We have to protect it and find ways of exploring and presenting it to new audiences.

3. It is time to speak about our history with a freedom of speech. The greatest difficulty is to get rid of self-censorship. It is a necessity to reflect our societies' rapid changes and to give them an uncompromising sight in our films. It is a long fight. It's worth it. With more freedom, the film-maker's responsibility increases and it is so much the better.

4. People appreciate art naturally, but tastes must be cultivated. Without this, we cannot value the beauty that surrounds us and we risk lapsing into barbarism. I am alarmed when I see how audiences respond to a bit of flesh on the screen. Film criticism is an integral part of the chain of the cinema. It should play an important role, especially in our countries where taste is not a part of the main preoccupations of the education.

5. Our true heroes - not kings and leaders - are still an undiscovered land to us. I hope to discover such stories to adapt into film scripts.

As told to Jemma Nicholls

Alyam Alyam will be shown at 9.30pm on October 16th at Marina Mall, followed by a Q&A with El Maanouni. Visit