Diaspo #264: Ayoub Qanir, from Morocco to the United States with cinema at heart

After traveling the four corners of the world, filming and acting in film projects, Moroccan-American actor and director Ayoub Qanir will soon set down his camera in Morocco, where he plans to shoot his first two feature films. Moroccan-Moroccans. During the Marrakech International Film Festival (FIFM), held from November 11 to 19, 2022, he was present to publicize his catalog of projects. In addition to these two opuses, he plans “TV films, short films, a mini-series and another long film”, he told Yabiladi, expressing his intention to submit proposals to the Moroccan Cinema Center. (CMC).

The first movie is called “The children of our lands”, in a poetic sense. It will take place in an isolated village in the Middle Atlas. In preparation, the second, “North”, deals with migration, from the angle of the thriller. “We imagine the north as a dream destination for immigrants. That’s where the title came from. The story is that of a detective who investigates a body washed up off the coast of Tangier,” he told us. Thanks to his many varied readings, Ayoub Qanir becomes aware of the migratory drama in the Mediterranean region, especially between Morocco and Spain. “Bodies of migrants are thrown up all the time, on African and European coasts. There are squares without names, within the cemeteries, with anonymous and only numbered graves, these are those of migrants who died at sea. border level are different. I was extremely impacted by learning what is happening in northern Morocco and southern Spain,” he said.

In “Nord”, the character of the investigator always finds these bodies. But one day, he will discover traces of bullets on one of them. “It’s a story of the tragedy of these migrants, but also of the traffic, of people who ‘burn’ their identity papers before leaving, so as not to wear anything from their previous life,” Ayoub Qanir tells us again. “What inspired me was my previous work on my feature film in Japan, about the ‘disappeared from Tokyo’, those who go through dedicated companies to disappear from a lifetime due to debt, family conflicts or problems of any kind,” he adds.

Ayoub Qanir in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona / Photo credit: Albert Ruso

Travel as a source of inspiration for cinema

Ayoub Qanir believes that cinema and travel go hand in hand. “I think it’s important to travel. This permanent displacement makes it possible to have other perspectives on one’s own origins. A Moroccan citizen who goes to live, work and be in the discovery of other countries, is enriched in the soul. When he turns around to look at where he came from, he clearly no longer sees things the same way,” he says. For him, “it is what makes this person able to produce something interesting, in terms of art and creation, whatever the form of this expression”. “The eclectic vision brought by the diversity of the cultural, social and intellectual baggage is of great value, especially for the cinema”, adds the director.

The latter does not come from the cinematographic world. He grew up in Casablanca, near Boulevard Gandhi. Originally, his father was a big movie buff. State engineer in public works, he travels a lot and on each return, he brings great notable films on VHS. “I grew up at the time of the decline of cinemas in Morocco and that all the opuses were not accessible on the big screen. I was marked forever when I was able to see “Goulag” by Roger Young in this way. We traveled a lot abroad too, whenever the holidays allowed us,” he recalls.

In the same period, cinemas were not very accessible, but Ayoub tried his hand at directing, without realizing that what he was was a creative exercise, on a certain scale. “I used my parents’ camera and I had fun shooting small sequences, even small films, with my friends at home. During the weekend, we shot some sort of thrillers, we filmed our basketball games, agreeing on what everyone was going to say. It’s as if I had the scenario in my head and with each new sequence, we cut the recording of the previous one. I even had fun doing the credits!” recalls the man who today “likes to make experimental cinema”.

Ayoub Qanir in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona / Photo credit: Albert RusoAyoub Qanir in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona / Photo credit: Albert Ruso

The director then went to high school in Spain, where his parents settled. From Madrid, he left for Los Angeles, then Miami, New York, to settle back in Los Angeles. In Casablanca, he played for seven years with the Wydad basketball club, then in the national junior team, before leaving for Spain, where he was part of the main team of the American school of Madrid, which led him to travel a lot, in different contexts and from a young age.

Another part of his youth takes place in Florida, where he obtained his degree in management and finance from the University of Miami, in 2005. He works in banking institutions, in particular the Bank Of America, in addition to internships in investment firms, including in Tenerife. It was during the economic crisis and the recession of 2009, in the infernal atmosphere of white collar workers and golden boys, that Ayoub changed course to refocus on cinema. He acquired a degree in graphic design and artistic direction, in addition to training in acting.

Ayoub Qanir in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona / Photo credit: Albert RusoAyoub Qanir in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona / Photo credit: Albert Ruso

In 2007, in Los Angeles, he completed a degree in film directing and production at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute. This is how he enters the cinema through the front door. He was first hired by an advertising agency in Miami, before making music videos and short films. His reunion with a friend from his studies made him rediscover Los Angeles from the angle of creation.

A royal recognition

During this period of his life, Ayoub Qanir also invested in graphic novels and comics, which gave rise to the project of the comic strip on the Green Marchwhich earned him a decoration by a wissam of King Mohammed VI, in 2015. Proud of this award, which he still remembers today as the best of his life, he dedicated this consecration to his father, in recognition of his important role in the artistic education of the young prodigy, from childhood.

Ayoub Qanir in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona / Photo credit: Albert RusoAyoub Qanir in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona / Photo credit: Albert Ruso

Ayoub Qanir tells us that he did not regret his decision to change his life, moving from finance to cinema. “The financial side of this new life is not always stable. You have to submit requests for support dozens of times before you can go from the idea to the preparation of a film. You have to be patient for several years during the design. But when you’re creating and conceptualizing ideas, it’s wonderful. You feel alive,” says the director.

He remembers his recent filming in Russia as of a “total dazzling, in the middle of nature, isolated, in a new living environment never seen, which lent to the discovery and the stimulation of creativity”. Each film project thus becomes, for Ayoub Qanir, “a human experience at all levels and which is lived intensely”.

Diaspo #264: Ayoub Qanir, from Morocco to the United States with cinema at heart