Known as the “Evening Kingdom”, Morocco is now on the verge of becoming “the epicenter of cinema” thanks to the country’s son and cinema mage Hicham Hajji. Hicham’s career trajectory has undoubtedly been unconventional.
He started his professional life as an accountant. Eventually, he found himself intrigued by the idea of shooting feature films in his native country and took the initiative to learn and practice the art of filmmaking, learning the ropes through a hands-on approach. .
“I did a small film school in Montreal, but to be honest, my real film school was my first film shoot as a 2nd assistant director where I learned a lot from one of the best 1st DA I’ve ever met,” he told Film Combat. Union.
Moroccan by birth, Hicham’s homeland was an integral part of his training as a film producer. “Morocco is an open film set,” he explains. “Very film friendly where the greatest Hollywood directors have filmed.
From Nolan with Creation to Ridley Scott with kingdom of paradise, Gladiator, body of lies for mission impossible 5, james bond, Kundun by Scorsese. . . I have worked on many premises [productions] where I was head of department and where I learned a lot.
Then I worked with Werner Herzog on queen of the desert where I understood that with [hard] work and dedication, I could one day make my own films.
Eventually, Hicham established his own production company, H FiLMS, in 2008. While this was a triumphant career step in many ways, it was also underscored by the professional setbacks of other actors in industry.
“I created my company when I was first assistant director. The producers who were hiring me at the time started to see me as a competitor and stopped hiring me,” he recalls.
Nevertheless, Hicham was not deterred by this career blackball. Rather, he used this opposition as an impetus to claim his position in the industry and succeed regardless.
“I had to be efficient and find my way. It was a lot of personal and financial investment. Sometimes I wasn’t working for months until I got the project that helped me survive. The only real lesson I’ve learned is that I should never give up, always follow my instincts and finish whatever I do,” he explains.
With multiple offices spanning from Los Angeles to North Africa, H FiLMS’ goal is simple: “[To] tell great stories in unique ways and across a variety of genres to make films that resonate with audiences both at home and abroad. Suffice it to say that they were perfectly successful in achieving this goal.
Earlier this year, Hicham made history when H FiLMS released their feature debut, Refund daymaking him the first Moroccan Arab to write, direct and entirely produce a Moroccan international feature film.
The film follows a decorated American Navy captain, Brad Paxton (Gary Dourdan), as he tries to reintegrate into civilian life, having just returned home to New York from his tour of duty in the Middle East.
He enjoys reconnecting with loved ones, including his wife, Kate (Serinda Swan), their pre-teen daughter, Clair (Lilia Hajji), and her father, Ed (Ernie Hudson).
When Kate receives an offer from her job to travel to Morocco to participate in an archaeological dig, Brad encourages her to go pursue her professional goal.
Unfortunately, her dream quickly turns into a nightmare shortly after arriving in the North African country, as she is kidnapped by a terrorist group as she and her group unwittingly cross the Algerian border.
When Brad is informed of his wife’s abduction, he is forced back into action for a daring and deadly operation to save the woman he loves.
Since the film’s release, it has received warm acclaim from audiences and critics alike, winning Best Feature at the Manhattanhenge Independent Film Festival and recently winning two Montreal Independent Film Festival awards for Best Supporting Actor (Andy Garcia) and Best Thriller. Despite this first success, Hicham is not resting on its laurels.
He and H FiLMS have a plethora of ongoing projects, including God is a DJa comedy that explores the lives of a wide range of individuals who must manage the expectations of their families, religions and communities and the conflicting things they must do to achieve their dreams.
Written by Hicham, God is a DJ is the story of a fatherless young Jew and a Moroccan imam who team up to form the least likely masked DJ duo. Together, they overcome their mutual mistrust to tackle the electronic music club circuit.
With a minority cast, Hicham wants the film to “bring this niche music to the world through the minorities who understand it”.
Elaborating further, he posits, “The show will be a much-needed reminder of happier times before the pandemic, a show that unites the diverse world through electronic music, and it’s about diverse people finding happiness and fulfillment independently. of their cultural identity. . .
Music reveals where you come from, but it’s the rhythm that unites us all! Multifaceted and industrious, it’s safe to say that Hicham Hajji’s talent and ambition will make him a household name sooner rather than later.