Cannes hails ‘heartrending’ Moroccan film about unmarried mothers

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The cast and crew behind ‘Adam’ appear for a photo call at the Cannes Film Festival. (Ammar Abd Rabbo/Arab News)
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The cast and crew behind ‘Adam’ appear for a photo call at the Cannes Film Festival. (Ammar Abd Rabbo/Arab News)
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The cast and crew behind ‘Adam’ appear for a photo call at the Cannes Film Festival. (Ammar Abd Rabbo/Arab News)
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The cast and crew behind ‘Adam’ appear for a photo call at the Cannes Film Festival. (Ammar Abd Rabbo/Arab News)
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The cast and crew behind ‘Adam’ appear for a photo call at the Cannes Film Festival. (Ammar Abd Rabbo/Arab News)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Cannes hails ‘heartrending’ Moroccan film about unmarried mothers

  • The movie explores the story of an unmarried mother in Morocco
  • It is based on a real-life encounter by the director

CANNES: Maryam Touzani never forgot the day a young woman knocked on the door of her home in Tangier asking for work.

“She was from a village and she was heavily pregnant. My mother had no work for her but was afraid to let her go... she wasn’t in a good way and had clearly nowhere to go,” the Moroccan actress and director said.

Sex outside marriage is illegal in the Muslim-majority country, and at the time a single mother who tried to give birth in a hospital would be thrown in jail.

“The girl had been going door-to-door, so my mother took her in for a few days until we worked something out.

“But there was no solution — she had been going from town to town after running away from her family, working as a cleaner and hairdresser until people noticed her predicament and then she would have to move on.

“So she stayed with us until she had the baby,” said Touzani, whose powerful new film “Adam,” at the Cannes film festival, was inspired by the woman’s heartbreaking dilemma over what to do with the child.

“She wanted to give up her baby straight away to give him a chance of a decent life, and to restart her own and become a respectable woman again,” Touzani told AFP.

But when the baby arrived, things weren’t so simple.

“Because she gave birth over a bank holiday weekend, she had to keep the baby until the adoption office opened. I was with her as she tried to suppress the maternal extinct, to put distance between herself and the child. It was painful to watch and really shook me.

“Little by little I saw her resistance break” and the pain grow as the bank holiday drew to an end. “I went with her to give the baby up,” Touzani said.

The hell that woman went through came home to when she became pregnant herself shooting “Razzia,” a huge hit in the kingdom in 2017, which she wrote and starred in.

“When I felt the baby move inside me I began thinking of her and I understood. And straight away I started to write, it poured out of me...”

Already talked of as an Oscars foreign-language contender, “Adam” shines a light on a hidden woman’s world in the conservative North African country.

Critics at Cannes hailed how the first-time director turned this “deceptively simple story... into gold” with the Hollywood Reporter praising its “great delicacy... made heartrending by the superb performances of Lubna Azabal and Nisrin Erradi.”

In the film, a village girl who flees to Casablanca played by Erradi is reluctantly taken in by a widowed baker (Azabal) hiding her own grief.

While Touzani does not go there in her touching, intimate tale, unmarried mothers are complete pariahs in Morocco, she said, often regarded as prostitutes.

“It is the worst thing that can happen to a woman,” she told AFP.

Until 2004 their children’s birth could not even be registered, meaning they have no legal status. “They simply didn’t exist,” she said.

The shame is so intense that “children are often sold or abandoned,” adding to the country’s army of street children.

“There are so many terrible stories,” Touzani said.

The writer-director has not shied from touching on raw nerves in her homeland.

Her husband Nabil Ayouch’s banned feature “Much Loved” was based on a documentary of the same name she made about prostitution.

It was branded “an affront to moral values and Moroccan women” shortly after its premiere at Cannes, with actress Loubna Abidar forced to flee to France after being attacked in the street in Casablanca.

“Razzia,” in which Touzani played the lead, also touched on taboos.

But she is convinced many who condemned the films in public were secretly pleased they had brought issues out into the open that Morocco needs to deal with.

“There is a facade that everything is all right on the outside even if people are tormented inside. It is good to let in some air and light, and people are relieved and happy things are being spoken about.”

“I am not at all afraid for ‘Adam’. In any case, nothing comes from fear.”


Celine Dion returns to Canada to kick off world tour

Updated 19 September 2019

Celine Dion returns to Canada to kick off world tour

  • The Grammy winner also recently announced the release of a new album titled “Courage”
  • She said in April that she felt motivated to create new music and hit the road after the 2016 death of her husband and manager

QUEBEC CITY: After living and crooning for years in Las Vegas, French-Canadian superstar Celine Dion returned home to Quebec to kick off her first world tour in a decade on Wednesday.
At 51, the Grammy winner also recently announced the release of a new album titled “Courage,” which will be her 12th in English and is due out on November 15.
The first single “Flying On My Own,” featuring her powerful vocals backed by techno beats, has already hit the airwaves, while three more dropped Wednesday: “Courage,” “Lying Down” and “Imperfections.”
Known for her blockbuster ballads, Dion said in April that she felt motivated to create new music and hit the road after the 2016 death of her husband and manager Rene Angelil.
“When I lost Rene, he wanted me back on stage. He wanted to make sure I was still practicing my passion,” she said. “I wanted to prove to him that I’m fine, we’re fine, we’re going to be OK. I’ve got this.”
So, after more than 1,140 concerts for 4.5 million fans over 16 years in Sin City, she bid adieu to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace with a final two-hour show.
“Courage is exactly the way I feel,” she told public broadcaster CBC at the time, talking up the upcoming tour of the same name.
“In the past three years, it has been difficult for me to talk to my children, to raise them, to lose my husband, wondering am I going to sing again... so much has happened, but at the same time I feel that I’m in control of my life.”
Some 60 dates in North American have been confirmed so far, her label said, with two arena shows in Quebec City on Wednesday and Saturday kicking off the tour, which will run through April 2020, and will be her first world tour since 2008-2009.
Her show was almost two hours of mastery, as she performed some of her greatest hits — from “I’m Alive” to “My Heart Will Go On” — as well as new material to an ecstatic crowd of roughly 20,000.
“It was really impossible to miss Celine at home,” Nicolas Delivre, a French university exchange student in Montreal, told AFP.
Donald Berard, from Quebec City, said he had grown up listening to Dion. “We love her like a member of our family.”
“Courage” marks the first album and tour in Dion’s long career without Angelil, who steered her success beginning in 1981 when he mortgaged his house to finance the young teen’s debut album.
The pair began a personal relationship in 1988 when she was only 19 years old, and married in a lavish ceremony in 1994. Angelil died of throat cancer at age 73.
In an interview with NBC’s Today show, Dion revealed that she longs for the hugs and laughs that come with a relationship, but added, “I’m not ready to date.”
The youngest of a family of 14 children raised in the suburbs of Montreal, Dion has sold 250 million copies of 23 studio albums in English and French, including collaborations with French singer-songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder.
Back in Canada, she told the Montreal Gazette that the tour schedule was “a little crazy,” but that she had found time in advance to take in life’s small pleasures.
At a press junket last Friday, Dion told Radio-Canada: “There are good wines that age well, and there are good wines that age badly. I hope to be a good bottle of wine.”
“I’m not a new Celine,” Dion added. “I’m a continuity of myself.”