Nabil Ayouch "Very Shocked" by Morocco's Ban of His Cannes Title


Michel Hazanavicius, Costa-Gavras and the Dardenne brothers have signed a petition supporting the French-Moroccan director.

Following Morocco's decision to ban his Cannes Directors’ Fortnight film Much Loved, director Nabil Ayouch has shared a reaction with The Hollywood Reporter.

“I’m very shocked and surprised by this ban," he says. "To me, there is absolutely no reason for it. The film depicts reality and should have opened a debate instead of being banned."

Adds Ayouch: "Freedom of speech, freedom in any form of art and creativity, is so important in every society to move forward. Films that talk about important topics, such as prostitution, should not be considered a danger. On the contrary, it’s healthy for a country to be able to look at itself in the mirror."

Last week, the government preemptively called for a ban of the film about prostitution following complaints from citizens groups and religious leaders, as well as the creation of Facebook pages calling for the execution of Ayouch and lead actress Loubna Abidar.

The film “has serious contempt for moral values and Moroccan women, and [is] a flagrant violation of the image of the kingdom,” a statement from Morocco's Ministry of Communication said. Government authorities have admitted they have not seen the film, but extracts posted online as well as information gleaned from its recent screening in Cannes.

Ayouch had previously been denied funding from the Moroccan Cinema Center and independently financed the film.

Stephane Brize, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Arnaud Desplechin, Pascale Ferran, Costa-Gavras, Michel Hazanavicius, Celine Sciamma, Bertrand Tavernier and Rebecca Zlotowski are among the directors who have signed a petition circulated by he French directors’ union Societe des Realisateurs de Films (SRF) supporting Ayouch.

“This prohibition encourages the worst attacks of Moroccan conservatives,” it says. “This film about prostitution in Marrakech shows a reality that Moroccan authorities refused to face. Yet this denied reality will not be changed in any way by this deliberate act of censorship.”

“We condemn this ban with the utmost firmness,” it continues, finishing: “We offer [Ayouch and Abidar] our unwavering support and friendship.”