Director ‘shocked’ as Morocco bans prostitution film

Rabat (AFP) — Franco-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch said on Tuesday he was shocked after Morocco banned his movie «Much Loved» about prostitution in the conservative North African nation, following its screening at Cannes.

«I’m shocked and surprised by this ban,» Ayouch said after the government said on Monday the movie would not be shown there.

«I don’t understand that my film can be banned when we haven’t yet applied for a permit for it to be shown,» he told AFP.

«Much Loved» focuses on the problem of prostitution in Morocco through the eyes of four women.

Clips released over the past few days have caused a backlash in the kingdom against the director and his principal actress, Loubna Abidar.

The government announced late on Monday that it would not be screened, calling it «a grave outrage against moral values and Moroccan womanhood», and «a flagrant attack on the kingdom’s image».

Ayouch denounced the decision on Tuesday.

«The freedom of expression of all Moroccan artists is under threat by this act of censorship by anticipation,» he said.

In a statement on Monday, the ministry of communications said the decision to ban the film had been taken after a team from the state-run Moroccan Cinema Centre saw it «at an international festival», a clear reference to Cannes.

The CCM implements all rules concerning the Moroccan movie industry.

Its chief Sarim Fassi-Fihri told Huffpost Morocco that the country is still very conservative, and that the film’s «crude language would not have been passed at the level of the commission».

«At best, scenes would have been cut. At worst, it would have been refused» release.

Ayouch, who is best known for «Horses of God», a 2012 drama about suicide attackers behind bombings in Casablanca in 2003, has repeatedly defended his approach.

«Prostitution is all around us, and instead of refusing to see it we should try to understand how women who have had difficult lives end up this way,» he has said.

Ayouch said that before making the movie he spoke to between 200 and 300 young women who were, or had been, prostitutes.