October 7, 2011
The Week the Women Went might seem a surprising choice of programme to bring to Morocco but for us it was instantly attractive.
We first heard about the show when we were in Casablanca and read in a French newspaper that France Televisions was going to broadcast a local version of BBC Worldwide’s format The Week The Women Went, based on a BBC Three series, which sees the entire female population of a village move out leaving their partners to fend for themselves. It instantly piqued our interest: a Moroccan version of this format would be a great TV show!
By chance we already had a meeting scheduled for the day after with the national broadcaster 2M TV to discuss projects we could do together. At the end of the meeting we mentioned our desire to make our own version of the show and not only did we get the greenlight but we also got a broadcast date – October 11th which is National Women’s Day in our country. All in all, a great meeting!
Both our production company, Made in Morocco Films, and 2M saw the impact such a programme could have on a country like Morocco where gender problems are more obvious than in western countries.
2M are committed to following the evolution of the country and the changing mentalities of its population but they are also very aware that there are still a lot of divisions in Morocco and, of course, it is a very religious country. We needed to strike the right balance – produce innovative programming without offending a conservative audience.
What was appealing about this format was that it had the power to tackle these big social issues and still be entertaining. And this was key, it had to be entertaining.
Casting proved to be the first obstacle. We met a lot of different people who did not understand why we wanted to produce such a programme and we had a lot of refusals. But in the end we found a great location with 10 fantastic families we could follow. (We had hoped to find 12 but 10 was close enough!)
The families were amazing and really opened up to the cameras, allowing viewers a unique glimpse into their lives. They were so candid that audiences will hear things that have never before been said on Moroccan TV. It was not smooth sailing, however. At one point some neighbours even tried to sabotage the filming and made threats against the families taking part.
This was a real challenge for the families concerned. For a lot of the women, it was the first time they had ever travelled alone and for the men, it was often the first time they had ever stepped foot inside a kitchen. It was not an easy experience for them and we are very grateful to all the families involved.
It is hard to say how the audience will react when the show, which we have called Madam Goes Travelling, airs next week, but from what we have seen on some of the social media sites there are some interesting discussions taking place. There are some men who are critical of the show and making accusations that we are bringing Western ideas to Morocco. But there are also a lot of young women who are in support of the show.
I think it is great to bring this British format to a new audience. British television is not very well known here in Morocco because people tend to watch French TV, Moroccan productions or Middle Eastern channels. Hopefully audiences will enjoy this show and we will be able to look at other programmes that might be suitable for our audiences.
I am looking forward to seeing how viewers will react next week. It hasn’t been the easiest programme to produce but we think it will be both entertaining as well as offering viewers something never before seen on our TV screens.
Ahmed Bouchaala is the producer of an African adaptation of BBC Three series The Week The Women Went, relocated to a liberal Islamic society, a sign that UK formats can break into new territories.