Ahmed Bouanani and Morocco’s Seventh Art

“For 30 years, the history of Moroccan cinema will have been in fact only a struggle, a search for oneself, for our language, for our face freed of the mask. She also collaborated with Leila Slimani   on the book   Casablanca, nid d’artistes,   an emotional stroll in Casablanca, edited by Malika Editions in December 2018. What interests Bouanani is how, over the long term, a visual heritage took shape. Indeed, following a fire at the family home, all Ahmed Bouanani’s documents were scattered and damaged. Also, she co-directed   Casablanca œuvre ouverte,   a new edition of   Casablanca, fragments d’imaginaire   with a second volume,   Casablanca poème urbain   on contemporary writings in Casablanca. *

Kenza Sefrioui is a cultural journalist, literary critic and publisher. Despite the mediocrity of those works, Bouanani believed that some of them deserve to be “part of the collection of a national film library to be built” someday; for example, the works of André Zwoboda, “Daughter of the Sands” and “The Seventh Door,” a story of curiosity from which Bouanani’s book borrows its title. As co-founder of the editions   En toutes lettres   and cultural activist, she published   Le livre à l’épreuve, les failles de la chaîne au Maroc   (En toutes lettres, 2017). He was regularly at odds with his superiors, as has been recounted by Ali Essafi, who devoted a documentary to him (“In Search of the Seventh Door,” 2018), and Bouanani was often sent to the archives. What Bouanani does in   The Seventh Door is part of this intellectual and political project of forming a critical apparatus. But he does not do this as a poet, but rather as a storyteller nourished by oral traditions which he helped to catalogue, and with his own music. She was in charge of the literary section in the   Journal hebdomadaire   from 2005 to 2010 and collaborates with Tel Quel, Diptyk and http://www.economia.ma. It is   a work of scholarship as much as storytelling, in which the poet, novelist and filmmaker Ahmed Bouanani (1938-2011)   retraces 24 years of Moroccan   film history:

By Kenza Sefrioui

Translated by R. Touda Bouanani — an artist, videographer, and daughter of the author — therefore undertook, at first with her mother, the costume designer Naïma Saoudi, and then with a whole team, to reconstitute and sort the different drafts of the book. Marie Pierre-Bouthier, who devoted her doctorate to Moroccan documentary film, typed up the different manuscripts. Ahmed Bouanani and Morocco’s Seventh Art

A major work has just been rescued from oblivion:   La septième porte (The   Seventh Door). R. Touda Bouanani, Ali Essafi, the researcher and translator Omar Berrada, and the editorial teams at Kulte then compared the versions, identified variations, and finalized the text, with its copious indexes and appendices. A Sisyphean work with a rock white and polished, like an egg, like a birth (or rebirth).”The publication of   The Seventh Door is, moreover, the culmination of a remarkable editorial effort. Ahmed Bouanani,   La septième porte. They live in Rabat. Manuscript by Ahmed Bouanani © D.R. Bouanani belonged to the post-independence generation: He published his first poems in the famous magazine   Souffles, around which an intellectual and artistic movement had crystallized to reclaim national culture, to make it a modern culture open to the universal. The historical approach does not prevent Bouanani from delivering his artistic point of view on his peers, sometimes in an uncompromising manner, but always “honest,” following his own course. Director Mohamed Ousfour, pioneer of Moroccan cinema © D.R. A first kernel dating from 1967 was developed in 1968; Ahmed Bouanani took up the text again in 1984, then in 1987. The author of the flamboyant   The Hospital   (published by Al Kalam in 1990 and by   Verdier   in 2012, translated to English by Lara Vergnaud) had been working since the 1960s   on writing the history of cinema in his country,   “because no one else had done it.”

Back cover of “Nejma” magazine with an ad that states “Bouanani seeks publisher” © D.R. Kulte Editions, 336 p., €25. The great originality of his approach is that he does not begin his history with the independence of Morocco, in 1956, but instead considers the perspective bequeathed by colonial-era cinema. Bouanani recounts scenarios, he details the atmosphere of the scenes, he attests to reception, and he presents himself as an often ironic, sometimes humorous commentator, in dialogue with his reader. She wrote a doctoral thesis in comparative literature at the University Paris IV-Sorbonne on the magazine   Souffles (1966-1973), espoirs de révolution culturelle au Maroc   (Sirocco Edition, 2013 Grand Atlas Prize). This undertaking included a reconsideration of works dating to the protectorate era and the creation of a new analytical framework, free of prejudices and interpretations in service of colonialism. (Le Fennec, 2013). Actors, screenwriters, support structures, magazines, festivals and censorship: he is as interested in the works as he is in the conditions that surround their production. The book opens with a tribute to Mohamed Ousfour, pioneer of the seventh art at a time when “seeing a Moroccan armed with a camera [was] as rare if not as inconceivable as meeting a dinosaur at the end of the street,” because “Osfour, coming from a people deprived of a voice, illiterate, and crazy from sheer madness, had the reaction, ever so sound, when he went to the cinema, to say to himself: ‘And why not me?’” Bouanani then provides a timeline, distinguishes between feature films and short subjects, offers in the appendix a filmmaker’s dictionary, and insists on the importance of the creation, in 1980, of a support fund, making a “demarcation line” between the industry’s “infancy” from 1956 to 1980 and the consolidation of a domestic film industry. From Mohamed Ousfour to Moumen Smihi; from Nabyl Lahlou to Mohamed Regab; he evokes and brings a world to life, like a fabulous theater, under his often tough gaze. The Seventh Door recounts not only the rise of Moroccans in cinema, but also the evolution of Moroccans’ perspective on themselves. It was the only book that Ahmed Bouanani   wanted to publish, but he died believing that the manuscript had been destroyed when his house burned down. There, he would spend hours reading magazines and watching films, taking notes on everything, especially every name that appeared in the credits. After seven years of work, this major work is finally available. Une histoire du cinéma au Maroc de 1907 à 1986. is a student and contributor to WorldKidLit. It was that last version which he wished to see published with abundant images, but he had not found a publisher in Morocco and did not plan to publish abroad. At the time, Bouanani was working at the Moroccan Center for Cinematography, which imposed a bureaucratic discipline on his entire generation of young artists, who were assigned to administrative tasks. Attentive to the use of languages, he recalls that films were sometimes shot in two versions, one in French with French actors, the other with Arab actors, but…in classical Arabic!If   The Seventh Door is admirable for its precise information on actors and directors who are almost forgotten today, it is also a work of great freedom.