Set in a small village in the Moroccan countryside, Alyam, Alyam tells a story culled from the lived reality of young men almost forty years ago while still remaining very much of the present day. A young man named Abdelwahed pins his dreams of a better life for himself and his family on travelling to France and finding work there. As the eldest of eight children, he becomes the principal caretaker and breadwinner for his family after his father passes away. He fills out forms and waits for his work permit to arrive. Meanwhile, Hlima, his recently widowed mother who’s reticent to let him go, tries in vain to dissuade him and enlists the help of Abdelwahed’s grandfather too. As the days flow by to the cadence of life in the countryside, marked by the hardships of farming, Abdelwahed waits. All he can do is wait. Straddling fiction and documentary, Alyam, Alyam is Ahmed El Maanouni’s first narrative feature, and the first Moroccan film ever to be selected at the Cannes Film Festival. Recently restored, the film’s splendor and finely crafted editing has become available once again for cinéphiles and new generations to discover.

Original Title Alyam, Alyam
German Title Alyam, Alyam
French Title Alyam, Alyam
Other Titles Alyam, Alyam
Directed by Ahmed El Maanouni
Country Morocco
Available Formats DCP
Screenplay Ahmed El Maanouni
Film Editing Martine Chicot
Soundtrack Nass El Ghiwane
Cinematography Ahmed El Maanouni
Sound Ricardo Castro
Production Rabii Films Productions
Runtime 80 Min.
Language Arabisch/d + f
Ben Brahim
Afandi Redouane
Familie Abdelwahad

Restored by Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with Ahmed El Maanouni.  Restoration funded by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project.

«Zuerst sammelte ich Material, Anekdoten und Tatsachen zum Leben der Bauern in der Region um Casablanca. In einem nächsten Schritt, als ich die Mosaiksteine des Films zusammensetzte, bat ich die Bau- ern, in meinem Film mitzuspielen. Der Film bewegt sich zwischen ihren Erfahrungen und meinen Beobachtungen. Alyam, Alyam ist in dieser Hinsicht sowohl ein Dokumentar- als auch ein Spiel lm. Abdelwahed, der Protagonist meines Films, wollte auch im wah- ren Leben seine Heimat verlassen, und seine Mutter Hlima hatte bereits ihr Einverständnis gegeben. Als ich sie bat, aus ihrer Sicht die Schwierigkeiten darzustellen, die Abdelwaheds Weggang für die Familie bedeuten würde, wusste sie sofort, was ich meinte. Es waren Hlimas Ausstrahlung und Abdelwaheds Ambitionen, die mich veranlassten, mit dieser Familie zu arbeiten. Im Moment träumt Abdelwahed von einer Hühnerfarm, arbeitet aber immer noch als Landarbeiter im Dorf.» Ahmed El Maanouni

«Alyam, Alyam is a film about shattered dreams and the circumstances leading up to that point; about the shaking of the traditional social structure; about the strength born of desperation and the unrelenting dissipation of lost generations. This is stressed from the first notes of the opening music, by the strangely empty building frame that is slowly filled with people, by the village space, by the silence of the wandering woman who smokes, until the last shot of the film, when a crowd appears from behind a deserted hill. The dreams of a society growing smaller, unable to hold on to the resources that could help it survive, are mirrored by the mother’s helpless prayer, “I need your shadow, I need your light, I need your face.”

I simply wanted to show the farmers’ faces, to honor their sounds and their images, their silences and their words, and that’s why I chose not to interfere and to opt for deliberately restrained composition, movement and mise-enscène. I tried to minimize the camera’s ability to distort, make a point, or discriminate. I wanted each aspect to be presented equally. I did not look for spectacular beauty, but made an effort to let the imagery of the rural world speak through abstraction and silence.

Almost 40 years later, when I watch Alyam, Alyam again, I am still comfortable with my aesthetic choices and my intuitions, but I cannot avoid noticing how, from beginning to end – from the opening shots with the blood shed by the camels, to the crowd of peasants appearing from behind the hills – it all seemed to presage the current tragedy experienced by the thousands whose broken dreams lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean, on which the voice of Nass El Ghiwane’s Larbi Batma seems to strangely resonate: “Alyam, Alyam, oh, those were the days! Why are you crossed? Who changed your course? You were once sweet like milk, now you’re bitter. I love all men as if they were my brothers. My brothers have crushed me. I will silence my pain and let my love be loud.»

Ahmed El Maanouni


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