By: Janice Malone
Internationally acclaimed Moroccan filmmaker Hakim Belabbes visited the downtown Nashville Public Library earlier this week to discuss two of his films, A Nest in the Heat and Whispers. The event was part of The Global Education Center & Conexion Americas “Caravanserai: a place where cultures meet,” a program that affords the Nashville area a rare opportunity to celebrate the music and culture of Morocco. The Global Education Center is only one of four entities awarded this grant from the Doris Duke Foundation in an effort to bridge the cultural divide between the East and the West. The library presented both events free of charge and open to the public. Several teens attended the film screenings and had plenty of questions for the internationally acclaimed filmmaker at the conclusion of each film.
A Nest in the Heat is a personal and challenging film that looks at the issues of separation, independence, and return that chronicles Hakim Belabbes’ journey from his home in Chicago to visit his family and hometown of Boujad. The film explores the domestic spaces and religious rituals of intra-family relationships, especially when compounded by one member’s break with traditional values. “I like to think that my films are about the real stuff, so to speak, in life,” says the internationally acclaimed filmmaker. His second film that was shown is Whispers. The film short follows a man’s obsessive search for his lost childhood through the dark alleyways and desolate cemeteries of Belabbes’s Moroccan hometown. Made in 1999, the film has no dialogue but moves rather hauntingly through the music, the beautiful cinematography and expressions of its actors. Belabbes says the film initially wasn’t even supposed to be movie.
He recalls. ”Yes, I had no script. Whispers was my very, very first film…It was originally not intended to be a film. It was supposed to be a location scouting project. I had written a script for another feature film and I was looking for funding for it. Someone wanted to see the location on where that film would be shot and how the scenery would look, so I went to my hometown in Morocco to shoot some locations. Back then, I actually stole a 16mm camera to use and if that wasn’t enough, someone gave me some stolen stock film footage from Russia to use too. I then begged friends to help me and as a result I ended up with my first film.” Academy Award winning actor Jeremy Irons was impressed with the 15 minute film after viewing it several years ago.
About Hakim Belabbes:
Hailing from the small town of Boujad in central Morocco, Hakim Belabbes graduated from Mohamed V University in Rabat with a degree in literature. Belabbes obtained a graduate degree in Film and Video from Columbia College in Chicago, where he now teaches film direction and production. Belabbes’ film awards include the Grand Prix at the Moroccan National Film Festival, Muhr Best Feature at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, where he served on the documentary jury, and Honorable Mention at the Bangkok Film Festival.