‘Return to Bollene’ Helmer Saïd Hamich Benlarbi Sets Next Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

Up-and-coming Moroccan filmmaker Saïd Hamich Benlarbi is developing a brace of projects as a producer and director, notably “La mer au loin” which won one of the two top prizes at the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshops.

Produced by Hamich Benlarbi’s Paris-based banner Barney Production and Manuel Chiche’s company The Jokers, “La mer au loin” is a 1990’s-set melodrama laced with Rai, a form of lyrical Algerian folk music .

The movie takes place in Marseille, in the South of France, and follows a young Arab immigrant living illegally in the city who falls in love with a woman who happens to be married with a cop.

Citing Todd Haynes and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Hamich Benlarbi said “La mer au loin” will “explore the concept of identity and how one defines it through exile.” He said the movie will talk about “Rai, love and friendship” and be “festive and emotional” with a rich music soundtrack.

“La mer au loin” will mark the sophomore outing of Hamich Benlarbi, who was raised in France and graduated from the prestigious Parisian film school La Femis before making his directorial feature debut with “Return to Bollene.” The film, which played the festival circuit and earned a Louis Delluc nomination, followed a young man working in finance with his American girlfriend in Abu Dahbi who travels to his underprivileged hometown in the South of France.

Hamich Benlarbi also recently directed the short “Le Depart” which was nominated at the Cesar Awards. The director-producer just left Marrakech where he attended the Atlas Workshops and traveled to the shoot of “Les Meutes,”  Kamal Lazraq’s feature debut. “Les Meutes” is set in Casablanca where a man and his son accept a dangerous mission from the local crime ring.

Charades has come on board to handle international sales on “Les Meutes” which Hamich is producing via his French outfit Barney Productions, and co-producing through his Moroccan banner Mont Fleuri Production. Beluga Tree in Belgium is also co-producing. A director to track, Lazraq previously had shorts playing at Cannes’ Cinéfondation and Clermont-Ferrand Festival.

Besides “La mer au loin,” as a producer Hamich was also at the Marrakech Film Festival with “Queens,” Yasmine Benkiran’s female-led adventure film which played at the festival after premiering at Venice; and at the Atlas Workshops with the admired “Deserts” from actor-helmer Faouzi Bensaidi (“Volubilis”). 

Hamich Benlarbi’s production pipeline also includes Steve Achiepo’s “Marchand de sable” and upcoming projects by Laïla Marrakchi (“Marock”).

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