Ahmed Boulane




Ahmed Boulane

Ahmed Boulane Sherif Awad

Ahmed Boulane Sherif Awad

Ahmed Boulane Sherif Awad

by Sherif Awad

Cinema in Morocco has started one year after its start in Egypt, specifically in 1897, when Louis Lumière shot one of the first films ever entitled The Moroccan Goatherd. Since that date, many international films went to shoot across Morocco, especially in Ouarzazate area. Also, many Moroccans worked in these largescale productions as actors, location managers and assistant directors with the visiting film crews coming from all over the world.
Writer-director Ahmed Boulane one of those Moroccans. Nicknamed L’enfant terrible du cinéma marrocain (i.e. The unruly child of Moroccan cinema) for his rebellious character, he gradually but firmly walked the artistic line to become one of the most renowned filmmakers on the Arab and international scene. Boulane’s luck stroke twice as his film practice was supported by his significant other, the American-born and Moroccan-based costume designer Dana Schondelmeyer.
Since his early childhood, Boulane started to fall in love with cinema. While at home, Boulane tried to create a handmade camera to film his mother on Fridays. His father, who favored American films, took him to see classics like Moby Dick. As lot of American WWII films were playing in cinema at that time of the 1960s, ironically enough, there an American military base 50 Km away of his home city Salé that was the home of many Moroccan officials and intellectuals.   
“I was a very rebellious pupil. So, once I finished my primary school years, my father sent him to learn a handicraft”, remembered Boulane who became a kid tailor. “Five years later, I started to write and illustrate my own stories by designing them like a comic book with storyboards inside and a cover on the outside. When I reached the age of twelve, while studying music at the Conservatoire of Rabat, I was cast in kiddie roles on Moroccan television, becoming the youngest actor of TV serials at that time”.  
Boulane could have excelled in his carrier as an actor but at a certain stage, he felt that he needed to do something else. “Once I got my first passport, I decided to fly to Rome in 1979. I was getting older and no cute boy roles were offered to me anymore. Yet, I needed to work to make a living”, explained Boulane who switched career by venturing into casting direction and location management on international films.

Dana Schondelmeyer who was born in Independence City, Missouri never explored her artistic side until a later stage of her life. She studied social science with a phycology major then became an English teacher at the States. “After meeting some Iranian students in Miami, I was fascinated to go and work in Teheran”, remembers Dana. “However, the Islamic Revolution broke out in 1979 which made me return to the US to finish my degree before moving to Spain then settling down in Morocco. It was in the early 1980s”.
Boulane and Dana met in Morocco while they were married to others. “Boulane was noisy and liked to make bad jokes about Americans”, laughed Dana who was at that time married to Moroccan producer Ahmed Abounouo, the head of Dune Films that supervised the lensing of many international films across Morocco. “I was teaching in Morocco yet I was very critical of the French educational system which is locally adapted in its schools and universities. And so, bit by bit, I found myself involved in costumes designs of the films that Dune was working on. It was maybe a fulfillment of wish to become a cartoonist at a very early age. I started with two women working for and some years later they become more than forty”.
Boulane and Dana’s first collaboration together came before they become a couple. “I asked Dana to create the costumes for a Harem scene in a French-Burkinabe production shooting in Morocco”, says Boulane. “The film was L'enfant lion (The Lion Kid, 1993) by Patrick Grandperret. Four years later, Dana landed the costume design role on Kundun by Martin Scorsese. Several international big productions followed for her and Boulane.
In 2000, Boulane realized his feature debut Ali, Rabiaa and the Others (2000), a story of the young man Ali (Younes Megri) who went to prison for twenty years. After his release, he tries to reunite with his lost love Rabiaa (Hiam Abbass) and his group of friends. “It was a nostalgic look to my hippie years in Europe and Morocco”, says Boulane who cast Dana in a bit role.  The film was screened in Alexandria Film Festival for Mediterranean Countries (AMFF) that same year, winning the Best Supporting Actor Award.
Boulane’s following feature was The Satanic Angels. Released in 2007, it was based on the true story of the arrest of fourteen young Moroccan hard rock musicians who were falsely accused of Satanism. Dana contributed to the film as costume designer for the special outfits of the hard rockers. In Egypt, similar cases were pursued by the law yet never the Egyptian cinema tackled it. Hence, the importance of that film.
Before being invited as jury member of the Arab competition at the 38th Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) last November, Boulane has already finished his latest feature La Isla (The Island) which, again, dramatized an important subject from our daily headlines. The plot revolved around a Moroccan soldier called Ibrahim (Abdellah Ferkous) who is sent to a deserted island off the Mediterranean coast to monitor illegal immigrants. One day, he meets the Sub-Saharan man Mamadou (Issa Ndiaye) who was washed up on the beach. Soon, their unlikely friendship triggers a diplomatic and a military crisis.
“I had a wonderful experience to be jury member along with Egyptian star Ilham Shahin and Lebanese star Georges Khabbaz”, commented Boulane who attended the festival with Dana. “It was my first visit to Egypt after the screening of Ali, Rabiaa and the Others. I remember I wanted my film to have a bigger prize in Alexandria, given its critical and commercial success at the time. But I am fine with it right now”.