TANGIER - French-Moroccan filmmaker Talal Selhami brought fantastic cinema to an unprecedented level at the 20th edition of Tangier National Film Festival.
Achoura is a traditional celebration in the Muslim world which falls on the 10th of Muharram in the Islamic lunar calendar. In Morocco, children celebrate it with bonfires as seen in the beginning of the film.
Married nine-year-old Bachira is in love with a boy of her age and both run away from her old husband and hide in an old abandoned house.
The thriller comes alive with its remarkable special effects as a child-eating monster kidnaps Bachira and disappears into the sky following a violent fight between the two children and the husband.
Four children, two of whom are brothers, have fun at frightening one another and decide to go into an abandoned house called the house of the French after being guided by haunted Bachira. One of them is whisked away in mysterious circumstances by a big man, prompting the three survivors find him despite the kidnapper’s plea to forget him.
25 years later, possessed Samir resurfaces in a harrowing way. The group finds itself confronted with the past and tries to find a way out.
Selhami, who has been a lover of fantastic films since his childhood, raised the bar with his movie “Achoura” with a combination of jaw-dropping special effects and horrifying decoration never seen before in Moroccan fantastic cinema.
Almost all the film is in French as the director seeks to widen its audience beyond Morocco although Achoura is celebrated mostly by children in popular neighbourhoods in the North African country.
“Fantastic cinema has the fabulous advantage of being intrinsically popular and has the particularity of going beyond borders. Fear is a universal language. Everyone feels the fear in the same way despite speaking different languages," said Selhami.
The movie’s producer Lamia Chraibi said that Morocco is a plural country where people like her and Selhami speak French because of the impact of colonialism.
“We have the intention to make an Arabic version of the film,” said Chraibi, adding that Achoura was a co-production between Moroccan and France.
She also emphasised that funds from France helped finance the costly VFX technique without which the advanced special effects wouldn’t be in the film.
Saad Guerraoui is Deputy Editor-In-Chief of London-based Middle East Online