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Cannes Film Festival: A Double Win for THE MOTHER OF ALL LIES by Asmae El Moudir


Asmae El Moudir’s name was called twice during the closing ceremony of this year’s edition in Cannes. The Mother Of All Lies (Kadib Abyad), which was selected in Un Certain Regard, won the Best Directing Prize and the L’œil d'or award. El Moudir’s documentary is her personal story of that of a young Moroccan woman’s search for truth which tangles with a web of lies in her family’s history. As a daughter and filmmaker, Asmae fuses personal and national history as she reflects on the 1981 Bread Riots, drawing out connections to contemporary Morocco.

AM: This isn’t your first time at the Cannes Film Festival, but this year will surely be the most memorable one…
AEM: Indeed, I’ve been attending Cannes for many years now. I enjoy watching movies here, so hearing my name on stage was surreal, especially that all the films in the competition are wonderful. My grandmother was in the room and I took the microphone and I told her in Arabic that you see, I am a real director; it was a very special moment for me. And receiving a second one was beyond my wildest dreams.

AM: Talk us through the journey of bringing this film to Cannes…
AEM: I witnessed all the kind of scams that I can for producing a project. There were a lot of people who wanted to take advantage of my film and my naivety. After that I took the decision to produce the film myself with the help of genuine people in the field. I was the real producer, it wasn't easy but I couldn't let go of my story, the story of my parents, family and neighbors. It was a topic that was very sensitive and that I had to protect for years. That's why I often refused the money because I didn't want any obligations, if there's money and freedom, I accepted, if there's no freedom, I didn’t sign. So, I started gathering money slowly since 2017 from people and intuitions who wanted to make a good documentary.

AM: So how was it like to film your family, especially your grandmother who is the heroine of the story?
AEM: The documentary is based on my family’s story, I asked them the questions I’ve been asking since 2013. I woke up every morning to check if my grandmother and family were fine. Because I love them, but I also needed to make sure they will finish the project with me and tell their entire stories. For me, it’s a very complicated film because I thought I was doing it with people I knew and that it would be an easy experience. But my family was also scared and it was challenging to break their silence.

AM: How does your film serve your homeland Morocco?
AEM: Who we are today is a result of our history, so we have to understand the past. In our region we always have a sort of nostalgia and we are constantly digging in the past and looking for stories to show the world. I consider that those who have no memories cannot speak of the future. I know my society, my culture, my family and we all need to talk about our misfortunes before talking about our blessings. It's not about provocation or manipulation, it’s about knowing who was there and who wasn't there and the evidence they have. Things have changed in Morocco and we are lucky to have a country that embraces art.

AM: Finally, an advice to film creators in our region?
AEM: You have to read and watch all the movies you can. You need to have passion and dream every day and never let go of this dream. No matter what the obstacles, no matter what the problems, you have a mission to accomplish. You have to let time be the revelator. The road is too complicated so passion needs to be your source of force. I put all the money and effort in this project that took me decades of work and here I am.