Brice credits his grandfather Hassan El Glaoui, one of the most iconic Moroccan artists of all time, for inspiring him to pursue his dream of acting.
Rabat – Morocco World News sat down to talk with up-and-coming actor, Brice El Glaoui Bexter, about his soon to be released film Redemption Day, what’s next for cinema in Morocco, and how being raised by an iconic Moroccan artist made him who he is today.
Redemption Day, currently in post-production and awaiting release in 2020, is a harmonious collaboration between Hollywood and Morocco’s cinema industry and marks a step forward for Brice’s career.
Brice plays the role of Younes Laalej, a BCIJ officer who teams up with a US marine to rescue an archeologist captured by terrorists in Morocco. The BCIJ stands for Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation and is well-respected internationally for its counterterrorism efforts.
The film, by Moroccan director Hicham Hajji with mostly Hollywood actors, gives center stage in Morocco in an unprecedented way. Not only using its scenery as a backdrop supposed to represent Syria or Afghanistan, the film makes Morocco a key part of the story, as well as highlighting the BCIJ’s famed track record in combatting terrorism.
“This movie belongs to Morocco”
Brice described filming the movie not only the best experience of his life, but also a very different experience from his previous films. “We were able to make the film a very ‘Hollywood Movie’ with all the A-listers in the cast,” he said.
The film also stars Canadian actress Serinda Swan, known for her roles in Tron and Percy Jackson, both blockbuster films. Alongside her is Gary Dourdan, who made his name on the hugely popular show CSI.
“Morocco was so much more involved in this project, because usually, production companies come to Morocco and co-produce just part of the movie and then the movie goes back to France, England or America,” Brice said.
“But this movie, this movie belongs to Morocco. It was 80% filmed here, and 80% produced by private Moroccan investors as well,” he continued. “We had all these A-listers, but an entirely Moroccan crew.”
“A step forward for the local cinema industry”
The movie’s crew, composing mostly of Moroccans based in country’s cinema capital, Ouarzazate, gave a boost to the local industry, providing jobs for local film students breaking into the industry and giving them the chance to be on the crew of a major Hollywood film.
“The movie was a step forward for a lot of people that got involved in the project, and definitely for Morocco as a whole because we’ve never produced a movie like this in Morocco or even the Arab world in general.”
“The movie brought a lot of investment to Morocco itself. Since the King brought a tax rebate for foreign films in Morocco, it’s been a great incentive for more movies to be filmed in Morocco,” he said.
Brice was referencing a 2016 finance law that makes foreign films eligible to receive 20% cash-back if its expenditures in Morocco are at least MAD 10 million and the film provides at least 18 days of work.
“That incentive is bringing in 30 to 40 million euros a year to Morocco, and it has been great for the country,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everyone, it’s great for both Morocco’s economy, film producers and local talent.”
“The Moroccans on set are very well paid, and it’s still much cheaper for producers than bringing in workers from overseas, they win by saving costs and we win by boosting the local film industry.”
“Showing the modern Morocco”
Brice again reiterated the film’s aim to put Morocco at the forefront, both by including a Moroccan crew and director and making Morocco a center plot point. “We’re putting Morocco back on its level, showing the way it is evolving positively at the moment,” he said.
“In any action movie, the FBI or Interpol is at the forefront. But the director wanted to put out a different vision of Morocco, so we showcased the BCIJ.”
“We love seeing Morocco in movies, but it’s always either depicted as Syria or a poor and struggling country, but Morocco is booming right now and the BCIJ is a superpower so we think now is the right time to be showcasing it,” Brice pointed out.
”We’re getting involved in international political matters, and the world has never been ready for such a movie.”
“With globalization on the rise, the world is ready for different movies than they were 20 years ago when films were very focused on American issues. “
“That model is changing, and now viewers are ready for movies that offer a different palette with more cultures and people.” Brice added he hoped a multitude of viewers across the world will be able to “see a bit of themselves in this movie,” thanks to the multicultural cast and plot points.
Brice’s biggest role yet came with pressure on his shoulders
Although Brice has featured in big productions before, such as upcoming Australian adventure film Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, Redemption Day is the biggest step forward in his career thus far, and he felt the pressure.
“This is my biggest project yet, I play one of the lead roles, I’m probably the second most on-screen,” he said. “I feel like I’m also carrying a lot of weight, I have to deliver something good.”
“Out of everyone in the cast, I was definitely the least experienced. They all have 25 to 30 years of experience in front of the camera.”
Andy Garcia, for example, who Brice also shared the Redemption Day set with, broke into the acting scene in the late 70s and has since featured in iconic movies such as The Godfather and Oceans Eleven, the latter of which garnered him an Oscar nomination.
“I had to work harder to get the results they get, but it was a great learning process to be able to do that with people who I watched when I was younger gave me a lot of confidence,” said Brice.
“The first few weeks were definitely a little stressful, but everyone was so nice that I eased into it. Gary Dourdan especially was amazing, it was like having a big brother on set.”
What’s next for Brice, and how did he get where he is today?
When asked what Brice what’s next in his career, he said he was hoping to move from Rabat, where he grew up, to Los Angeles, “the Mecca of Acting.”
“But if I ever get there, it will always be thanks to Morocco, and for that, I will always be grateful,” Brice was quick to add.
He said that no matter how much he travels, as he receives jobs from his agent in London, Paris, and Spain, one thing he loves is that so many of the films lead back to Morocco anyway as part of filming.
“30% of the time, the international castings I get include Morocco as a film location, and I love that,” he asserted.
Brice, who has an English sounding name thanks to his British father, has mixed European and Moroccan heritage but grew up in Rabat, surrounded by Moroccan culture, thanks to Hassan El Glaoui, his famous painter of a grandfather who raised him.
Brice credits El Glaoui, one of the most iconic Moroccan artists of all time, for inspiring him to pursue his dream of acting. “He raised me since I was two years old, so he was more of a dad to me than a grandfather,” explained Brice.
“He taught me that it’s not just because you have a famous artist for a father that you get to be one too, but when you’re so close to someone who has succeeded in a very tough
domain, it gives you a little more belief in the journey.”
“Being so close to him made me believe that my dream was accessible. It was not an easy process by any means, but now, a few years later, I see my stubborn side that believed in my dreams so much paying off, and it’s all thanks to him,” Brice told MWN.
“Being surrounded by someone whose work touched so many people and who was so applauded motivated me to do the same.”
A year on from his grandfather’s death, his paintings continue to touch people in the way Brice mentioned. A 5-month exhibit of El Glaoui’s work at the National Museum of Mohammed VI just ended this month, and the exhibit saw over 30,00 people pass through its halls.
“When you’re raised by such a person, your whole environment is very creative. That allowed us to never stop dreaming,” said Brice.