Hicham Lasri, a Moroccan filmmaker, artist, and writer, has stated that his upcoming feature film Happy Lovers, premiered at the El Gouna Film Festival’s CineGouna project incubator this week, will take a more mainstream approach.
The black comedy is set in France in the early 1990s. It follows a penniless novelist who devises a cynical, madcap plan to assassinate a famous author with a fatwa to utilise the reward money to provide a better life for his wife and soon-to-be-born first-child. But, unfortunately, he quickly finds himself out of his depth, as his preparations go farcically and hellishly wrong.
“The story requires a more audience-friendly approach”, Lasri told BMA Sources on the fringes of the CineGouna meeting. “Instead of doing ‘punk cinema,’ I’ll just make movies.” The story enthralled me, and it is the story that has shaped my approach. “I am all for extreme cinema, but this is more of a human story that requires a different approach,” Lasri added.
The multi-hyphenate artist residing in Casablanca is most known for his avant-garde and experimental works such as The End (2011), Starve Your Dog (2015), and Headbang Lullaby (2017).
Lasri began writing the first draft of the screenplay in early 2015, shortly after an extremist attack on the headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, which was followed by a wave of sporadic terror attacks in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
“We’ve been working on this story for years, and with the development of fundamentalism and fatwas, it’s grown a little more relevant each year.” It’s been astonishing to see how realistic the story has become. “It is unfortunate but true,” Lasri remarked.
According to Moroccan producer Lamia Chraibi, with Gaspar Noé’s irreversible elements and Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo, “There is this descend into hell as the main character keeps making horrible choices,” she explained. But, “there’s also an endearing side to him that makes him a sympathetic character.”
The film was previously presented at Atlas Workshops in Marrakech in November 2020. Since then, the Moroccan Cinema Centre has secured the project and is actively looking for partners in Europe.