The love story between Morjana and the cinema took off by accident. At 18, her high school diploma in her pocket, she leaves Morocco for Florida. Then quickly, she flies to Paris in order to follow her communication studies at the American university. At the time, director Leïla Marrakchi is looking for a fresh and spontaneous young woman to incarnate Rita, the main role of “Marock”. This carefree and outgoing character from the nice parts of town seemed to suit her perfectly: “By chance, Leïla showed me the scenario. I read it and I liked it… This was the first time I played a role in a film.” The debut seems promising but the young actress dawdles. “After “Marock”, I went through lots of castings and screwed them all up! It put me off but in parallel I kept on taking acting classes because I still believed I could make it. Just when I was going to quit and go back to journalism, I was called to shoot “Martyrs””. In this super violent metaphysical thriller, Morjana plays the role of Anna next to Mylène Jampanoï. Here again, fate catches up with the actress. “At the beginning, this part was destined to Vahina Giocante, but for personal reasons, she gave up at the last minute. They therefore looked for a needy actress. Shortly after, I received the scenario and I accepted to make the film right away. I was hooked by the story which was beautifully written. I then met with Pascal Laugier (the director) and ten minutes later, without a casting or anything, he proposed to give me the part”.
Though it is true that Morjana landed in the cinema by chance, she never accepted any soppy uninteresting roles. Her passionate character makes her to go all the way, whether her detractors like it or not. In Morocco, the release of the film by Leïla Marrakchi caused a great outcry, mainly among cinema professionals who tried to prohibit the film. This came to no end, because the censorship commission finally decided to restrict the viewing of the film to under 12 year olds. But the controversy around “Marock” and the critics from all sides that qualified the film as Zionist and subversive for the Moroccan youth, did not discourage the actress in the least. “I believe they’ve taken the film hostage to create a fake controversy between Jews and Muslims. They needed to find some reasons to fuel that conflict. The problem is that they can’t stand the fact that someone can convey a bad image of Morocco, a bad image of Muslims… And they can’t conceive the idea that a Muslim woman can date a Jew, they feel insulted. It’s a pity…especially because those criticisms came from artists”” she deplores. And even if Morjane is aware that the film could have shocked the public, she finds it necessary: “I grew up in Morocco, I know Morocco and Moroccans very well, it’s true that I come from quite a bourgeois milieu, but I mix with everyone, I’m ready to listen to everyone, and I love Moroccans. I know that some of them were shocked, but it’s in our lifestyle, many Moroccans are not open enough…” and she adds: “They need to see women that take their own decisions, independent women, women who manage to live on their own, without the need of a family or through an older brother.” For her second film, Morjana had to face criticism once more, but this time in France. In fact, “Martyrs” was prohibited to under 18s, due to the unbearable violence of some scenes. “I felt this decision was a form of censorship. I didn’t understand why they needed to censor such a film, which I thought had to be seen. So I was relieved when they put the age down to 16.” She rejects the critics which consider the violence of some scenes as gratuitous or those that see the film as an apology to Nazism. “”Martyrs” transcends the mere representation of physical violence. The scenes have to be deciphered. This violence represents human relations and the rules that govern society” explains Morjana.
The seventh art can change the world
The young comedian justly admits that she’s rather partial to disturbing feature length films: “I like films that awaken minds, crude films with a deeper meaning, with matter, which do not propose gratuitous violence. And I found all this in “Martyrs”. “She hopes that in the future she will be able to land parts which are just as strong and overwhelming as those she became famous for: “I would like to interpret the role of a junkie for example. I wouldn’t mind acting in a comedy if it’s well written, though my first choice rests on roles of more tortured characters. I’m more attracted to films that try to say something, that try to change the world. ” For now, she’s still waiting for proposals of this nature: “The scenarios I receive usually involve hackneyed roles, most of the time on my origins. I don’t want to play the part of the over-tanned “beurette”, or of the girl who has four older brothers who want to smash her face every time she has a coffee with her younger cousin. I’m not exaggerating, these are the proposals I get.” In any case, she’s particularly fond of a project: the film by Leïla Marrakchi where she portrays Malika Oufkir, the daughter of the general who tried to takeover king Hussein II in 1972. We’ll still hear about Morjana Alaoui…
Sarah Ben Ammar
Translated by Nada Ghorayeb