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By Phil Hall | April 18, 2003

The films of the North African cinema rarely find their way into American commercial release, so in many ways the April 16 New York theatrical premiere of Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets from Moroccan filmmaker Nabil Ayouch is cause for celebration…even though it took three years for this 2000 production to finally get a U.S. release!

The winner of several awards around the world, including honors at the Montreal and Stockholm Film Festivals and presentation as the Moroccan entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets tells the harsh and often brutal story of a group of children living in the streets of Casablanca. When one of them, the title character, is killed by a blow to the head in an act of gang violence, his friends decide not to report the death to the police because it would mean Ali would be buried in a potter’s grave. Instead, they scramble to secure the means to give Ali an honorable burial. Their challenge is met with a variety of obstacles from the street gang who killed Ali and various dubious adults, including Ali’s long-absent prostitute mother and a corrupt Islamic cleric.

In preparing the film, Ayouch spent years befriending actual Moroccan street children and many of them have roles in his film. Indeed, all of the cast are non-professionals except for Said Taghmaoui, who plays the gang leader and who is best known to international audiences for his performance in David O. Russell’s Three Kings.

Ali Zaoua is Ayouch’s third film as a director; his earlier work, the feature “Mektoub” (1998) and the short film “Les Pierres Blues du Desert” (1992) played in festivals but never had a U.S. release. Film Threat spoke with him on the arrival of Ali Zaoua in the American market and the state of North African filmmaking.

Get the interview in part two of NABIL AYOUCH: ON THE ROAD FROM MOROCCO>>>

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