Before the Dying of the Light
MOROCCO, FRANCE / 2020 / Arabic, French / Color, B&W / DCP / 70 min
Director, Script, Producer: Ali Essafi
Editing: Chaghig Arzoumanian
SFX, Credits Design: Mohamed Slaoui El Andaloussi
Sound Design: Kinda Hassan
Sound Mixing: Jean-Marc Schick
Production Company: Cinemaat Productions
Co-production Companies: 2M TV, Laterit Productions, Les films du Passage
World Sales: Taskovski Films
The 1970s revolutionary movements in Morocco, led by laborers and students, also gave rise to an exciting avant-garde art movement that developed alongside the protests. However, the movements were largely suppressed by authorities which led to their being erased from public memory. Before the Dying of the Light uses footage from Mostafa Derkaoui’s film About Some Meaningless Events (1974)—which was discovered recently in Spain—and combines photographs, posters, magazines, and music from the movement together into a free-flowing collage that serves as an ardent homage to the original artists who had been forced into silence and forgotten by time.
[Director’s Statement] In Morocco, there are no National Archives. They have been at worst neglected and at best misappropriated by a few institutions closely related to the system. Under pressure from the European Union, a bill stipulating the creation of the Archives of Morocco was passed in 2003. But ever since, this institution has remained an empty shell. Although officially available for consultation, the control of the system makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to access. Thus, from one generation to another, amnesia persists and creativity fades . . .
Local filmmakers are always aware of the sensitivity of this matter. The regime has soon deterred anyone who wanted to deal with the archives in a different way than the official interpretation. In the early seventies, Ahmed Bouanani, who was the first and the last to try his hand at it, has paid the price for it his entire career. His film Memory 14 (1971), a fruit of many years of research was censored from 108 to 24 minutes.
Like most Moroccan artists of my generation, I evolved in total ignorance of the local history of cinema and visual art. Inspired by Memory 14 and by A. Bouanani’s approach, I undertook a long and difficult search for collecting and exploring archives. This allowed me to finally reconnect with the artistic creation of previous generations, and convinced me of the interest of sharing its discoveries with a large audience. Before the Dying of the Light is not a movie about the past. My intention is to rather invoke this episode in order to wonder about the place of the artist and his (or her) creation in society. This issue must be constantly examined so art won’t lose sight of its essential references.
Born in Morocco, Ali Essafi studied psychology in France, then entered the world of filmmaking. His works as a director include General, Here We Are (1997), The Silence of the Beet Fields (1998), Ouarzazate Movie (2001) and Shikhat’s Blues (2004) which have been widely screened on the international circuit. Returning to Morocco he embarked on lengthy research on the North African film & visual archives. These have been transformed into films and installations. His film Crossing the Seventh Gate was premiered at the Berlinale (Forum) in 2017 and his last one Before the Dying of the Light was premiered at IDFA in November 2020.