San Sebastian Project ‘Azahar Baby’ Shows the New Face of Arab Spain (EXCLUSIVE)

·3-min read

Expanding the diversity of Spain’s film-TV sector, Moroccan-Spanish director, Swel Noury Cazorla’s “Azahar Baby,” is 10 of ten projects pitching at San Sebastian first Creative Investors’ Conference, which is co-organized with CAA Media Finance.

Written, and to be directed, by Noury (“Heaven’s Doors,” “The Man Who Sold the World”), the feature project is the first out of the gate for Noury and executive producer Sonia Ziadi Trives, who is also Moroccan–Spanish, at their Madrid-based joint production venture,Two Flavours Productions.

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“Azahar Baby” weighs in as a coming-of-age dramedy. It tells the story of Yusef, an aspiring filmmaker who is making a documentary to make sense of his identity as a second-generation Moroccan immigrant.

Th project shows a vision of Arab Spain that is very realist, yet far more nuanced and more upbeat than most depictions, the two filmmakers said.

“We felt it’s a bet on us to be selected for the conference. It’s the first project from our production company,” said Ziadi Trives. “We need partners and people who believe in the project. We don’t only need money but also people.”

The Madrid-based entity seeks to redress what the partners have identified as a lack of diversity in the Spanish Film-TV sector. Two Flavours’ initial line- up focuses on second generation Moroccans in Spain.  The North African nation forms the biggest immigrant group in Spain. Ziadi Trives observed. The partners are both from Casablanca, and were born to Spanish-Moroccan parents.

A second feature in the works is the sports drama “Atika.” The main character is a young Spanish girl, with Moroccan origins, who comes from a dysfunctional family where violence is a norm.

A friend advises her to try fighting. But, as a Muslim woman in a world of men, Atika soon realizes that stepping into the cage isn’t the most difficult part.

“The world of fighting, and martial arts, is one of Swel’s passions, and is a very interesting theme to tackle,” says Ziadi Trives. “There are more and more Arab Muslim women in this arena and we’d like to explore it further.”

The budget range for features at Two Flavours falls into the €3.5 million-€4 million ($3.5 milllion-$4 million) range, which is relatively high for post-pandemic Spain.

“Azahar Baby” is the “first step of a greater mission,” says Noury. “Two Flavours has been set up to give a voice to minorities that don’t have a voice in our audiovisual business.We wanted to create the company because of all these films coming from the U.S. showing so much integration. We thought Spain was behind in that respect.”

Added Ziadi Trives: “We’ve been observing the arts in Spain, and second generation immigrants are doing interesting things, but it’s lagging in the audiovisual scene. Plus there is a rejection of other cultures based on ignorance. Terrorists are shown by the media, but what about all the normal people that have normal questions?”

The two first worked together in 2005 to get Noury’s film “Heaven’s Door” to Berlin. He co-directed the Moroccan story with his brother Imad.

“Immigrant cultures feel very rejected. Unfortunately, the Arab world is very discriminated. against. The audio visual sector is the place to address this. Especially with the rise of far right parties,” said Noury.

(Swel Noury plans to go by the name Swel on future projects.)

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