“La Guérisseuse” (The Healer) directed by Mohamed Zineddaine won the grand prize in the feature-length film category at the ninth Maghreb Film Festival of Oujda (FMFO). The festival took place virtually from November 25th – 29th, 2020 and saw the participation of six feature-length films and 12 short movies.
Released in 2018, the film tells the story of a 16-year olld teenage boy, played by Ahmed Moustafa, living on the outskirts of a small Moroccan mining town who yearns to read and write. His adoptive mother, the village healer, played by Fatima Atif, forbids him from seeking education out of fear that he will someday leave his hometown.
One day, the boy convinces a 30-year-old cynical pickpocket, played by Medhi Laaroubi, to take treatment from his adoptive mother for his eczema. From that day onwards the three characters become intertwined. Throughout the film, the protagonist finds himself intertwined between tradition and modernity, as well as science and superstition.
Mohamed Zineddaine, a Moroccan expat based in Italy, was one of the leading winners in the festival and the recipient of four prizes for “La Guerissuese” (The Healer). During his awards presentation speech, Zineddaine claimed, “he was was surprised and did not expect to win one prize for the film, let alone four. Can you imagine?”
Zineddaine praised Fatima Atif for her role in “The Healer, stating, “It is time the spotlight falls upon this great actress.” Fatima Atif graduated from the Superior Institute of Dramatic Art in Rabat and has since made many appearances in theater, television, and film.
Zineddaine came from humble beginnings, similar to the protagonist in his film. He was born in the small village of Oued-Zem in Morocco in 1957. While he was considered a mediocre student, he spent mot of his free time reading. In 1983, he left his small village behind to study computer science at the University of Nice in France.
Zineddaine quickly realized computer science was not his passion and switched paths a year later to begin training as a film director in Bologna, Italy. Since that time, he pursued creative arts, such as photography, journalism, and film. Zineddaine’s feature films include “La Vecchia Ballerina” (2002), “Reveil” (2004), “Do You Remember Adil?” (2008), “Anger” (2012) and of course, “The Healer” (2018).
Medhi Laaroubi, who won Best Actor for his role of the pickpocket, worked with Zineddaine prior in “Do You Remember Adil?”. Zineddaine remains devoted to his lead characters Laaroubi and Atif, sharing “I’m so proud of them both because they brought their own intensity, energy, and truth to the film. Ultimately, ‘La Guerissuese’ is the work of great actors.”
Saturday’s ceremony marked the end of the 20th National Tangier Film Festival. where 30 films competed in front of a respected jury. Farida Benlyazid, a Moroccan director and screenwriter, headed the jury. Also, on board was Layane Chawaf, who is in charge of cinema at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris, the French comedian Lily Bloom, and several others.
Moroccan director Abdel Salam El-Kalaie, one of the heads of the jury, said that the award went to (Mubarak/The Healer) for “the strength of his actors’ performance, the depth of his directorial vision, his technical mastery, and his deep understanding of the conditions in the region in which he was filmed.” The film was previously featured in seven different festivals in Morocco, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, and Jordan.
“The Healer” also earned five awards prior to the FMFO feature-length film grand prize. It won the Best Actress award at the Malmo Arab Film Festival in Sweden, as well as the Best Female Performance, Best Male Performance, Best Production, and Jury Award at the Tangier National Film Festival.
The FMFO award ceremony on Sunday also saw the crowning of Moroccan director Hassan Benjelloun as the best director in the feature-length film category for his 2019 movie “For the Cause.” The Jury Award of the feature-length film category, meanwhile, went to Tunisian director Walid for his 2017 movie “Fitria.” In the short movies’ category, the Grand Prize went to the Moroccan film “Perfume,” directed by Houcine Chani.
Tunisia’s Amine Lakhnech won the Best Director Award for his 2019 movie “True Story” and the Jury awarded its special prize for the film (Spacetime Spectrum) by Moroccan director Karim Tijwaout.
As a reminder, this edition was placed under the theme “Oujda, the Crossroads of Maghreb Cinema”, and featured workshops, masterclasses, and webinars with renowned personalities, respected within the film industry of the Maghreb.
The Association (Siny Morocco) held the ninth edition of the Maghreb Film Festival via digital platforms, on an exceptional basis due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. In a speech broadcast during the award ceremony, FMFO director Khalid Sli welcomed the success of this year’s festival, organized for the first time in a virtual format.
“I thought that parting and saying goodbye to the guests and participants after a hypothetical session would be lighter and less effective than the moments of separation after the end of each of the previous sessions, but in all sincerity, I have a feeling that the separation this year is more severe, because the number of our guests is even higher,” said festival president Khaled Sally The default level has been multiplied over and over again. We were a small Maghreb family, with some friends from outside the Maghreb, and thanks to social media, we became a big family that extends to all parts of the world,” he concluded.
Sli pointed out that the festival’s audience went from “a few thousand” in previous years to 1.5 million spectators this year who watched at least one screening on the FMFO website or social networks.