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Venice Film Festival: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Stars and Choreographs BACKSTAGE


Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Backstage Film
As part of the Giornate degli Autori selection in Venice, the Moroccan film Backstage is directed by Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane.

A mesmerizing dancing road movie that showcases the remarkable choreography of Belgian-Moroccan artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. The directors skillfully delve into the lives of a dance troupe, exposing the intricate internal dynamics that involve petty conflicts, score-settling, as well as the revelation of hidden secrets and personal confessions.

We spoke with the world-renowned artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui about his work on the set of Backstage.

AM: Tell us more about the pre-filming phase as an actor and choreography…
First of all, the characters felt very relatable. So it felt natural to slip into Hedi, to become him. I felt he was torn between conflicting desires, or rather, he felt his surrounding had a hard time accepting his multiplicity, his different faces. This made him an outsider, something I easily can relate to.

As a choreographer I wanted to create a choreography that fitted the troupe, that would balance between these characters, as if their way of dancing is also their way of relating to each other.

AM: Did you face any difficulties when the production started?

On set what was hard was the unknown! Sometimes being in the forest in the middle of the night with no sound and no light was overwhelming. Also, nature is very unpredictable, wasps and wind or cold or heat. All very beautiful but also intense.

AM: And how was it like working with two directors?
The directors were both very complementary. I felt when one was focusing on the way things looked, the other would focus on how it should feel. As actors there was a lot of room to explore our own relationship to the characters. It felt open and generous.

AM: And how did filming in your homeland Morocco influence your work?
Working in Morocco felt incredible. Somehow it offered me a space to find another way of creating choreography. I felt encouraged to connect to this part of my roots. The region sort of pushed me to think more in rhythm, to find a sort of ritual.

AM: In your opinion, why are the dynamics of dance troupes intriguing to spectators?
I think there’s nothing more intimate than dancing together. It offers all of us a sort of safe space to be ourselves and to express our true selves. I think that authenticity is very appealing for spectators. In life we often have to pretend, while in the backstage we end up being totally ourselves.

Backstage Film