Fair or Rigged: Touzani-Ayouch Bleu Caftan makes it to the Oscars

After Maryam Touzani’s latest movie being preselected to participate in the Oscar academy awards, the Ayouch-Touzani duo has been making headlines – and not just for good reasons.

The Moroccan Cinematography Center (CCM) has picked The Blue Caftan, Maryam Touzani’s feature film, starting Loubna Azabal, to participate in 2022’s Oscar Academy Award in the category of best international film.

The film deals with homosexuality in the telling of the story of Halim and Mina, a couple who run a traditional caftan store in the old medina of Sale. The events lead to the couple’s life being shaken by the presence of a young man they hired to help them with the demanding customers.

“I never think in terms of subjects when I write a film,” said Touzani in an interview with HIBAPRESS EN.

The director explained that her only desire is talking about characters that touch her, and “those characters indubitably carry their own truth. I only write when I feel an overwhelming need to do so. There is nothing rational about my choices.”

The film starts Loubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri and Ayoub Messioui.

The movie is one of the many Ayouch-Touzani collaborations. This power couple almost always participates in the creative process of each other’s projects. Nabil Ayouch is one of the producers of The Blue Caftan.

“In the case of Maryam and I, there’s also the particularity that we’re a married couple. It makes the proximity even stronger. The way we work is also more singular. Even if we try to not give cinema too much of a place in our lives it is still very present,” Ayouch said to HIBAPRESS EN.

The Bleu Caftan was seen not long ago in Toronto but first premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard category.

“It is a very beautiful recognition,” declared Touzani, saying that she is grateful and proud to be able to represent Moroccan cinema this year through her film’s selection.

In the eye of the storm

CCM’s decision to choose The Blue Caftan to represent Morocco was not well welcomed by everyone.

Mariam Elajraoui, a film researcher at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, and a specialist in Moroccan cinema took to Instagram to express her thoughts on the selection.

The researcher said that “ever since 1977, out of the 18 Moroccan movies presented at the Oscars, 7 are from the Ayouch-Touzani dynamic. But most importantly, ever since 2017, out of the 6 movies presented, 4 are from the Ayouch-Touzani duo.”


Mariam finds it ‘odd’ that out of 20 feature films produced every year in Morocco, Ayouch productions always seem to make it to the Oscars’ preselections.

There is also another controversy around the matter. One of the most important Oscars’ conditions to participate in the international film category, is that competing films must have been first released in the country submitting them during the eligibility period defined by the rules of the academy, and must have been exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial movie theater in their countries.

Touzani’s movie still did not premiere in Moroccan cinema but is expected to do so before November 30.

Elajraoui told HIBAPRESS EN that Touzani’s Oscars preselection is scandalous, explaining that it accentuates what’s going on with the Moroccan cinema industry and what has been happening for years now.

“How to explain that the people who were responsible for appointing the members of the jury at the National Festival(which took place in Tangier) were at the same time presenting films in competition? How to explain that these are the same people who were responsible for choosing the film that will represent Morocco at the Oscars? Are there no more professionals, no more critics, no more researchers, are there no more intellectuals in the country? The lack of transparency is so obvious,” declared Elajraoui.

Mariam alongside many others disapproved of CCM’s selection of The Blue Caftan.

“How can we also explain that for years Nabil Ayouch and his wife Meryem Touzani have been monopolizing the Oscars? To see the way in which these two directors find themselves in all the international cinematographic events, one would think that they are the only ones to make films here,” said the movie specialist.

What could be easier than creating controversy today, especially when you have great media power at your fingertips?

Worse still, these filmmakers are reproducing what in cultural studies today is called “neocolonial” thinking. Orientalism, miserabilism, Islamophobia, anthologizing gaze… Everything that appeals to Western funders and distributors who have not yet freed themselves from the colonial heritage,” Mariam said; maintaining that many a lot of other Moroccan movie makers deserve a chance at the preselection.

The problem is that all of this takes away visibility and credibility from filmmakers who do ‘honest work’ and of whom we should be proud, said Mariam.

She declared on an unfortunate note that those in the industry, who dare to speak against the disclination and injustice of its system, get blacklisted.

Elajraoui considers herself fortunate for not needing the validation that comes from aids and prices in order for her to do her job, which is why she expresses herself freely.

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