Friday, September 23, 2011

Agony of Safia Ziani

Agony of Safia Ziani

By Allal El Alaoui

At Bannani atelier in Essamarine in Rabat, there sits Sofia Ziani, a small old woman with big cultural background in media stream in Morocco. Safia seems to be too small to hug, unfortuantely abandoned by close powerful friends .The woman has proudly worked for three Moroccan kings and has finally beaten all media records as far as media productions .She has participated more than 600 productions either theatre plays, Radio programs, televised series and cinematic collaborations.

Weary with toy and left to ill-natured mad dogs of productions, Safia is lonely and disappointed .She rarely receives people apart from respectable directors either from Mohammed 5 theatre; television or cinema. When you look at the woman, memory brings you back to five decades of extensive wok in drama or interpretations. Her son has unfortunately left her and Safia becomes homeless .She cries alone but is eager to reveal her pain to her lovely public. In fact, Safia cries out in front of you and immediately you know that her tears are neither improvised nor lying but hers are mixed with deep agony and nostalgia.

When I was at the international film festival of women in Salé this year, I waited for some women to mention her agony but no one even press has made a scoop about her only they talk about beauty, cosmetics and showing-off business. Shakespeare was right when he said “too much ado about nothing”. I said to myself questionably are cinema festivals in Morocco meant to be only to scream, to dance and enjoy foreign and Moroccan films without having a close look to our artists who are dying slowly in the streets or in shabby hotels? This happens once to Charkaoui, the international Moroccan painter who died in the street of Paris. I haste to the Renaissance hotel in Rabat where Sofia stays permanently, ironically Renaissance a French word, means rebirth and Sofia is in “redie” slowly without paying any attention to her. Her star is gradually fainting away and media and society are ignoring this giant artist.

No doubt, Safia Ziani is sealed in our national visual memory. Surely; it is about five decades of serious work .i think we are invaded by egoism and selfishness. We must overcome our ego and restart our human system as computers do so as to look for homeless and painful artists.

Actors and actresses make us laugh and cry, but we don’t want to laugh at them because they need our support and our solidarity .These artists are us .We look like them and they interpret us by nature. We might be ashamed if they interpret us like monsters and animals as if we have never been born with pride and dignity.

Allal-cinemagoer: Moroccan public knows you very well.So, no need to give us your historical background because…

Safia Ziani: (She interrupts me) No, sorry my son. I insist to bring you back to our national memory, I mean the fifties.Oh. (She gives a long sigh) .Those golden days. I think Morocco itself was having its good times during that period of time.

Allal: That was in 1957.

Safia: Exactly. We worked very hard that time. Work was our goal to see our nation up in the air, but we really enjoyed those moments .We worked at “the Maison du Theatre” where we were trained by European and Moroccan teachers too.

Allal: I understand that Morocco had difficult times under the French administration, I mean it just came out of the Burden of the colonization.

Safia: My family was patriotic and we had a great affinity with the national movement front called then “Al Haraka Al Wataniya’ under the lead of Allal El Fassi and Mehdi Ben Barka.El Mfadel Charkawi was my grand father .He was a Sufi by nature a great man of charm, but he taught us all principals to fight for our nation against the French.

Allal: I have heard that there is a street in the suburbs of Rabat called El Mfadel Charkawi Street.

Safia: Yes.That was my grand father name. At home, artistic knitting patterns were exercised by my own mother. She used to teach me songs that urged me to survive and indeed I was inspired by them to love my country and arts especially theatre. You know Allal, we love our country so much.( a deep sigh).Let me tell you that there are people born with a golden spoon whereas me I, was born with love of this land.

Allal: Who inspired you to love theatre?

Safia: Sharif el Gnawi.He saw me do some gestures, movements, mimics spontaneously at home .Then; he took me to theatre introducing to Tahar Ouaziz, Pierre Voisin, Taib Essadiki and Khadija Jamal. Sharif did not know that he had given me a big present ever in my life. Those moments were unforgettable of my great vocation and inspiration of those giant artists.

Allal: I understand those moments of joy and magic. But, tell me about women like Khadija Jamal and Fatima Regragui .They were first women to be on stage in Morocco?

Safia: Moroccan taboo to see women on stage were broken by these ladies. They were sympathetic to me and had taught me a lot about stagecraft. They were great ladies.

Allal: What was your first theatrical improvisation?

Safia: It was my first casting by two great men. They were Pierre Voisin and Taib Essadiki.At first; they looked at me with suspicion. I admit that they were unconfident to go further. However, they decide to cast me with “Hala” as we say in Arabic. They said to me “Imagine yourself you are a happy girl. You go from one street to another. Then you stop to see some clothes only for girls. All of a sudden, you hear from a close door that there are some people who are talking about you. So, what will you do?

I did the part so well that Pierre Voisin and Taib Essadiki were impressed. My imagination did not betray me and I was so happy that these men engaged me to be a professional actress.

Allal: Tell me about the play “Awicha”?

Safia: My role was about a girl called Wafaa .I played that part very very good with great pitch and moment as Shakespeare said. In Awicha, actors like Mohamed Said Afifi and Fatima Regragui were playing with me .You would not imagine how happy I was that moment of performance.

Allal: Who was Pierre Lucas?

Safia: He was the director of the Rabat Theatre house, a great man and a theatre-goer.

Allal: Moroccan dramaturge like Taib Laalej begun to focus on adaptations like Moliere plays?

Safia: True. Taib Laalej writes good Arabic. He adapted “le malade imaginaire” by Moliere which became in Moroccan slung “Amrid bel Wahm”.My part in this play was to play a woman called “Lalla Abouche”.We were invited by the king of Belgium to play that play before him. Of course, our king Hassan the second was there and he was extremely happy about our performance.

One thing I was unhappy about was my spelling of some words especially “S” to “ch”.When I was casted before El Kanfaoui, he refused to see me spell these words like this. So, he said to me with denial and refuse “Go home to help your mother». His words were like daggers into my heart. I was really disappointed and nervous .We were then in Maamoura complex known of its beautiful green land and high beautiful trees. I went out and saw a Sheppard .I just approached him and gave him about 5 dirham’s, because I wanted him to give me his stick. I had an idea in my mind to lead his sheep speaking loudly to myself .So, I put a pencil in my mouth and begun to order sheep”S-S-S”.With a great surprise; EL Kanfaoui got out and observed my determination . From that moment he knew I was a stubborn and determined girl having balls of fire into my eyes. At last, he invited me to come inside to join his theatrical team.

Allal: The theatrical group in Maamoura was named by his majesty the king Hassan second?

Safia: Yes. It is true. My talent was sealed with professional actors and actresses. I was given a nice part in that play of Mohamed Basri called “Chraa Atana Rabaa”. We toured with it all Morocco. Of course, money was nothing to us. We were given only 250 “Rials” .Yet, our motivation was our nation and we loved Morocco so much.

Allal: New era of images has come .I mean television .National Radio and television known of its name “RTM” had an important impact on you especially that RTM started to air its programs from Mohammed 5 theatre?

Safia:I joined RTM by writing a letter to the king Hassan the second. I was impressed by this new machine called television .I was recruited there and it was the first time I met up with Abdellah Chakroun who was the director of RTM.Tehniques of Radio were something new to me especially the magical tools called ‘Micro’ and "sound effects". To convince people without seeing them is challenging and need great efforts to equalize the voice and widen imagination.

Allal: Dubbing Hindi movies with Brahim Saih is another technique to work in the auditorium of Studio Swissi in Rabat?

Safia: Brahim Saih was a gentleman.He used to bring operators and technicians from France to work with us. These French operators were very often astonished that fact that we finished dubbing Hindi films in two months. For them our task was something nearly impossible. They were really impressed about our work. I and Taib Essadiki played the comic people in every Hindi movie.

Allal: Where is Studio Swissi located?

Safia: In Swissi in Rabat.Unfortunatly, rushes are destroyed and vanished .I presume some of them are stocked at the Moroccan Cinematographic Center (CCM).I hope they will show those movies to this new generation by paying homage to Brahim Saih.I think we were unfair to this man either in his life and even in his death.

Allal: I know you have been successful in tragic roles in cinema .However, I think you are also good to play comic parts too.

Safia: critics and cinemagoers adore all my roles in cinematic roles such as:

- A la recherche de la plage perdue by Ferhati Jilali

- La nuit sacrée by Nicolas Klotz written by Tahar ben jaloune

- Mémoire et détention by Ferhati Jilali

- Noah

- l’ombre du Pharaon by Souhail Ben Barka