Before the Dying of the Light + Director Q&A 2020

Ali Essafi / Morocco, France / 70 mins / Arabic, French / Rating 15 / UK Premiere

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This glittering collage of posters, magazine covers, archive footage, jazz music, and cartoons takes you back to the art scene of 1970s Morocco, viewed from the perspective of the artists and actors themselves. Many of them were to end up in prison or disappear without a trace. The story revolves around a Moroccan independent film from 1974, About Some Meaningless Events by Mostafa Derkaoui, where a group of young filmmakers explored the role the new Moroccan cinema should play in society. The counterculture arose from Marxist student movements, which saw cinema as an “instrument for sensitization” and self-discovery.

After just a single public screening, however, About Some Meaningless Events was censored by the government. The negatives of this long-lost film were rediscovered in Spain and have recently been restored. Dedicated to the victims of censorship and oppression, Before the Dying of the Light employs riotously edited fragments and evokes a time of excitement about the future before it was extinguished by the repressive years under King Hassan II. Now, that flame is briefly rekindled as these images are shown once again.

About the Director

Born in Morocco, Ali Essafi studied psychology in France, then entered the world of filmmaking. His works as a director include General, Here We Are, The Silence of the Beet Fields, Ouarzazate Movie and Shikhat’s Blues which have been widely screened on the international circuit. Returning to Morocco, he embarked on lengthy research on the North African film and visual archives. These have been transformed into films and installations. His film Crossing the Seventh Gate was premiered at the Berlinale (Forum) in 2017 and Before the Dying of the Light premiered at IDFA (Amsterdam) in November 2020. The film went on to win two post-production awards; the Rough Cut Lab Award (Visions du Réel 2019) and the CineGouna Platform Award (El Gouna Film Festival 2019).



Past Showings

Friday 15th October 2021 / 7:30pm for 17 days / Online

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Director Statement

In Morocco, there are no National Archives! They have been at worst, neglected and at best, misappropriated by a few institutions closely related to the system. Under pressure from the European Union, a bill stipulating the creation of Archives of Morocco has been passed in 2003! But ever since, this institution has remained an empty shell and never recovered the films & audiovisual archives to this day. Even if they are officially available for consultation, the control of the system continues, making it difficult and sometimes impossible to access! Thus, from one generation to another, amnesia persists and creativity fades...

Local filmmakers are always aware of the sensitivity of this matter. The regime has soon deterred anyone who wanted to deal with the archives in a different way than the official interpretation. In the early seventies, Ahmed Bouanani, who was the first and the last to try his hand at it, has paid the price for it all along his career. His film Memory 14 (1971), a fruit of many years of research, was reduced by censorship from 108 to 24 minutes! It is the only existing independent film based on archives till the production of Before the Dying of the Light.

Like most Moroccan artists of my generation, I evolved in total ignorance of the local history of cinema and visual art. Inspired by Memory 14 and by A. Bouanani's approach, I undertook a long and difficult search for collecting and exploring archives. This allowed me to finally reconnect with the artistic creation of previous generations, and convinced me of the interest of sharing its discoveries with a large audience. Before the Dying of the Light is not a movie about the past. My intention is to rather invoke this episode in order to wonder about the place of the artist and his (or her) creation in society. This issue has to be constantly examined so art won't lose sight of its essential references.

- Ali Essafi, Director