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Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch’s Much Loved has been banned from his native country.
The film, which premiered last week in the Cannes film festival’s Directors’ Fortnight sidebar, has been barred from being shown in the North African country due to the realistic portrayal of prostitutes in Marrakech.
“The Moroccan authorities have decided not to allow this projection,” said a Ministry of Communication statement. “It has serious contempt for moral values and the Moroccan woman, and [is] a flagrant breach of the Kingdom.”
The film has not yet screened in Morocco. The government said the decision was based on recent showings “when it was screened as part of an international festival,” a clear allusion to Cannes.
“I do not understand how they can ban my film even though we have not yet applied for a permit,” Ayouch said in a statement to the AFP. “The freedom of expression of all Moroccan artists is endangered by this act of advance censorship.”
“Coming from a country that welcomes filming worldwide, and organizes one of the largest film festivals in Marrakech, censorship and this attack on freedom of expression is unacceptable,” said Fortnight general delegate Edouard Waintrop.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter during Cannes, Ayouch said that he believed artists are freer under Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. “Things were really different before him, and since he arrived there is more and more freedom of expression in the media, and us as artists there’s no fear,” he said. “That we should not be afraid to say what we want to say.”
“Still, you have to decide where the limits are and push the limits all the time. So it’s not an ideal world, but compared to other countries in the region it’s a very, very inspirational place to be,” he said.
The move follows outrage by prominent imam Yahya Mdarghri last week who said that the film “incited debauchery and encourages Moroccan pornography and illegitimate sexual relations.” The organization Citizen’s Defense Association filed an official complaint with the government.
A Facebook page has been set up calling for the execution of the director and lead actress Loubna Abidar. There has also been unfounded speculation on social media that the film, which did not receive state funding, was financed by Zionists.
Ayouch’s Mektoub was Morocco’s official entry to the Oscar’s foreign-language category in 1998.
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