The Moroccan Youth Film Festival is the fruit of passion, determination, and hard work. Farouk Essalhi shares an inspiring story of a dream coming true.
Farouk Essalhi founded the Moroccan Youth Film Festival (MYFF) in 2018. The festival is a contest where a jury of filmmakers judge a collection of short movies, animations, and documentaries after their screening.
The event aims to shed light on the creations of young filmmakers from all over the world. As the word “youth” in the name of the festival indicates, only high school students under the age of 19 can submit their works to the managing team.
In an interview with Morocco World News, Essalhi discussed the inspiration and logistics for the first run of the festival, as well as his hopes to revive the event in 2020.
The Festival’s Inspiration and Purpose:
The founder and president of the festival revealed that he has been passionate about videography, cinematography, and filmmaking for as long as he can remember. “It is a passion that I discovered early on in my childhood, and I nurtured and developed it in my own way,” he said.
Essalhi, being a filmmaking enthusiast, went on to create a club dedicated to his passion under the Addictest Center in Rabat. Through meeting and discussing with the members of the club, Essalhi came up with the idea of organizing an event as a fun way to screen short films created by the members of the club.
After contemplating the idea for quite some time, Essalhi came to the conclusion that he “really wanted to do something related to his passion that could help people whether in or outside of Morocco.” A mixture of passion, ambition, experience, and support turned the simple idea into a fully fledged project.
The festival is an opportunity for young creative filmmakers to earn recognition for their work. “One thing I admire about the festival is how it was created by young people for young people,” Essalhi said. In fact, Essalhi created the festival as a 17-year-old high school student. The MYFF is the fruit of a passion that unites all young filmmakers, where their creations are valued and in some cases rewarded.
Preparing for the Festival:
The first MYFF happened in September 2018, and according to Essalhi, required months of preparation.
It took a team of four high school students to handle everything from selecting content for screening to shooting for locations, advertising, and finding sponsors. The MYFF team included Farouk Essalhi (founder and president), Adam Belfki (assistant director), Nouhayla Zoubir (director of logistics), and Kawtar Moumni (director of sponsoring).
The team put out an announcement on the website FilmFreeway and later received over 1,100 projects from 93 countries. Essalhi had to narrow the submissions down to 15 projects from eight countries, including Morocco, for screening on the day of the festival.
The preparation process entailed the design of logos, brochures, marketing the festival by managing its website and creating advertising videos, reaching out to the contestants, contacting various figures of the Moroccan filmmaking industry, and trying to find sponsors. Essalhi referred to the end result as a “delightful product of hard work.”
Essalhi emphasized the importance of his belief in the project: “The more we believed that it could be done, the faster we progressed and the more support we got,” he said. Despite the fact that the small team was juggling a wide range of responsibilities, Essalhi affirms that preparing for the festival was enjoyable.
The Final Product:
Madaris Al Hassania, Essalhi’s alma mater, sponsored the event along with Autoroutes du Maroc. The Addictest Center also provided support in handling paperwork. The festival received media coverage on Hit Radio, Medi1TV, and Chaine Inter.
The organizers held the first MYFF in Cinema Renaissance in Rabat on September 29, 2018. The event saw the screening of 15 different projects created by high school students from eight different countries, including Morocco, Czechoslovakia, Iran, Australia, France, and the United States.
In addition to these projects, the MYFF team screened a coup-de-coeur movie titled “Kenza Des Choux” directed by Sofia Alaoui, a member of the jury.
The jury of the MYFF 2018 included Alaoui, a French-Moroccan director and producer, Jamal Omari, and Ali Benchekroun. The varied opinions of each member played a key role in selecting the award-winning projects.
Following the screening of the 15 projects, the jury deliberated and announced their judgments. There were five different awards: Best Overall Project, Best Animation, Best Narrative, Best Short Film, and Best Script.
Two movies by Radheya Jegatheva, a young Australian aspiring filmmaker, featured in the event. “Irony” and “Journey” both appealed to the audience and the jury and won three awards between them.
Australian Ambassador to Morocco Berenice Owen-Jones attended the festival, representing the Australian contestants who unfortunately could not attend themselves. Owen-Jones accepted the awards on Jegatheva’s behalf.
Over 200 people of different age groups and nationalities attended the event: Groups of families and friends came to Cinema Renaissance on a Saturday to have a good time, leaving Essalhi feeling proud and happy.
The Future of MYFF:
The MYFF 2018 was a successful event. As the festival was designed as a yearly occurrence, Essalhi planned to run it again in 2019. Due to logistical and financial difficulties, the event was cancelled.
Essalhi hopes to move forward with the festival in 2020, despite the restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The MYFF team is now separated by thousands of miles, with each one of the four organizers pursuing a college education in a different country.
These challenges have not made Essalhi lose hope. The young film enthusiast thought of having a virtual version of the MYFF this year to maintain social distancing guidelines.
“I am confident that we will be able to revive the MYFF very soon. It’s all about the right timing, the right funding and the right team,” Essalhi concluded.