Houssine Soussi, Ph.D

Amazigh International Film Festivals and the Promotion of Amazigh Cinema

Houssine Soussi, Ph.D

National School of Business and Management. University of Ibn Zohr, Morocco


Abstract: Language endangerment is a historical and universal phenomenon, wherever there are languages, there is language endangerment. In North Africa, the Amazigh language and its varieties are not excluded, and are exposed as a result of many internal as well as external factors (migration, urbanization and globalization). In an attempt to counter this phenomenon, many Amazigh activists across North Africa started to produce Amazigh films and other cultural artifacts. Accordingly, the first Amazigh audiovisual productions were born in the mid-80s with the advent of video. Unable to shoot in 35mm because of its price and the lack of state funding, Amazigh independent filmmakers opted for a less expensive and lightweight format allowing easy access to the most remote places and to a larger audience. After important experiments in the field of direction and production of video films, many Amazigh producers and directors such as Azzedine Meddour (The mountain of Baya, 1997), Abderrahmane Bouguermouh (The forgotten hill, 1996), Belkacem Hadjaj (Machao, 1996) and Mohamed Mernich (Tilila, 2006) decided to venture into the cinema in its real form. Faced with the proliferation of Amazigh audiovisual and cinematographic productions in the 1990s, the need to organize Amazigh film festivals was felt, especially as national and local festivals did not allowed the selection and participation of Amazigh movies. This dynamic was also encouraged by members of the Amazigh diasporic elite who felt the need to organize international film festivals in major American and European cities (such as The New York Forum of Amazigh Film and the Festival International Du Film Amazigh De Montreal) so as to share Amazigh films and culture and to spread awareness about the Amazigh question in North Africa. Against this background, this paper intends to question the role of national and international Amazigh film festivals in the promotion and development of Amazigh cinema and video.

Keywords: Amazigh; film; cinema; festival;


The North African language situation, in general, and that of Morocco in particular, for those who are familiar with it has always been tremendously complicated to analyse and understand. Its complexity has defied analysts so far very few researchers have been able to provide a full synthesis of the situation. In Morocco for instance, the sociolinguistic landscape is characterized by the presence of national as well as non-national languages that fall into three major linguistic groups: Amazigh language and its varieties (Tachelhit, Tamazight and Tarifit) which represent the indigenous language of the country; Arabic language and its varieties introduced to Morocco in the seventh century; and the foreign languages which are represented mainly by the two colonial languages French and Spanish and eventually the international language represented by English. Like many other languages ​​in the world, Amazigh, has been impacted by many changes initiated by the internal dynamics of the Maghrebian societies such as migration, urbanization and intermarriages, and worsened and accelerated by external forces such as colonization and eventually the impact of globalization. More, the nationalist policies that were adopted in post-independence Morocco were based on Arab-nationalist ideology that “intentionally disregarded the socio-cultural plurality of Moroccan society” (Soussi, 2018). Accordingly, “a policy of Arabization focusing on the ideological goals of Arab patriotism and ignoring the multi-linguistic reality of the country was initiated by the Moroccan state with the complicity of nationalists’ parties and religious conservatives” (Soussi, 2008). As Rabia Redouane (1998) posits, “Morocco, like other countries, faces large national problems. The national language question is one of the most important because it is central to national unity. Recently, the Moroccan government has devoted considerable effort to crafting a careful and elaborate multi-sector language policy, with particular significance for the educational system, which aims at promoting Arabic as the language of literacy and wider communication…During the French occupation, the traditional and the modern educational systems coexisted. They were in direct opposition to each other and continue as a contemporary source of conflicts between Arabo-Islamic tradition and Western culture…, and after Independence (1956), Morocco decided to provide an education that is Moroccan in its thinking, Arabic in its language and Muslim in its spirit.” The essence of this educational system “asserted that Morocco’s history only began when the Arab liberators arrived to free the Imazighen from their backward lives and instilled them with a respect and knowledge of Islam. It further stipulated that Amazigh origins lay in Yemen and that Tamazight was a derivative language of Arabic” (Kruse, 2013). As a consequence of these policies, many Amazigh varieties have become for the first time in the long history of the country endangered and a few were totally extinct (such as the Ghomara language). In an attempt to counter this phenomenon, Amazigh activists and scholars across North Africa and in Diaspora launched a cultural and identity movement and organized themselves in the form of associations such as the Berber Academy in Paris, the Moroccan Association of Research and Cultural Exchange (AMREC), Tamaynut and the Summer University of Agadir in Morocco. These associations “became increasingly vocal in their demands for linguistic and cultural rights” and very active in the revitalization of the Amazigh language and culture (Soussi, 2018). AMREC, for instance, which is the first Amazigh association in Morocco, accelerated its efforts in the documentation of Amazigh language and its oral culture and traditions and the promotion of a modern literature by the publication of short stories and novels and by issuing media outlets such as newspapers and magazines and the organization of conferences and festivals. With all these positive efforts, many artists and young filmmakers started to join the movement and to produce Amazigh films and other cultural and artistic artifacts. Accordingly, the first Amazigh audiovisual productions were born in the mid-80s with the advent of video. Unable to shoot in 35mm because of its price and the lack of state funding, Amazigh independent filmmakers opted for a less expensive and lightweight format allowing easy access to the most remote places and to a larger audience. After important experiments in the field of direction and production of video films, many Amazigh producers and directors such as Azzedine Meddour (The Mountain of Baya, 1997), Abderrahmane Bouguermouh (The forgotten hill, 1996), Belkacem Hadjaj (Machao, 1996) and Mohamed Mernich (Tilila, 2006) decided to venture into the cinema in its real form. Faced with the proliferation of Amazigh audiovisual and cinematographic productions in the 1990s, the need to organize Amazigh film festivals was felt, especially as national and local festivals did not allowed the selection and participation of Amazigh movies and works.In Morocco for instance, AMREC was the organizer of the First National Amazigh Film Festival held in July 2000 in Casablanca. This dynamic was also encouraged by members of the Amazigh elite in diaspora who felt the need to organize international film festivals in major American and European cities (such as The New York Forum of Amazigh Film and the Festival International Du Film Amazigh De Montreal) so as to share Amazigh films and culture and to spread awareness about the Amazigh question in North Africa. Accordingly, this paper intends to question the role of national and international Amazigh film festivals in the promotion and development of Amazigh cinema and video and eventually the reinforcement of Amazigh language, identity and culture.

From “Colonial” to “National” and „Amazigh” Cinema

Cinema is a performing art that exposes to the public a work or ‘film’ composed of moving images projected on a support, usually a blank screen, and accompanied most of the time by a soundtrack. Since its origins, cinema has been a complex reality as it is at the same time a technical invention that is still subject to evolution, and a popular art, industry and media used for various purposes such as entertainment, scientific research, education and propaganda... In Morocco the Cinematograph was introduced in 1897 by its inventors the Lumière brothers, and the first film footage, “The Moroccan Goatherd” produced by Louis Lumière inaugurated a long tradition of foreign shootings in this country. In 1907 for instance, Felix Mesguich turned in Casablanca the documentary “Reports of the events of Casablanca” documenting the beginnings of the French aggression against Morocco. With the establishment of the Protectorate in 1912, and under the leadership of Marshal Lyautey himself, a local film production was encouraged and the first Moroccan colonial feature film “Mektoub” was shot in 1919 by Jean Pinchon and Daniel Quintin with Mary Harald Bogaerts. These foreign film experiences will pave the way for a specific genre, “the colonial cinema”. This new genre will be quantitatively important with the production of some legendary titles such as “The Sons of the Sun” by René le Somptier (1924) and “Itto” by Jean-Benoit Levy and Marie Epstein (1934). During the 1920s, French and Spanish settlers continued to produce documentaries. The war of the Rif for instance served as springboard for the shooting of some films reflecting the point of view of the Spanish military institution. Moreover, this period has been characterized by a huge film production; the French for instance were involved in the shooting of many feature films such as “In Search of Atlantis”, “Blood and Sand”, and the “The Son of the Night”. During the 1930s and 1940s, production had considerably expanded and Morocco, became the preferred destination for producing a large number of French films such as “The Rose of the souk”, “Razzia”, and “The five accursed gentlemen”; and American productions such as “On the road to Morocco” and the famous movie “Casablanca” by Michael Curtiz. During this same period, the Spanish filmmakers continued to carry out militarist works praising the spirit of the Legion. All this cinematic activity favored the arrival of other international film shootings and allowed the establishment of a logistics and especially the creation of the Moroccan Film Center (CCM) in 1944 and the opening of Souissi studios and laboratories in Rabat. During the 1950s, more than 40 American, French and Spanish films were shot in Morocco. These films were very diverse: “Othello” by Orson Welles, “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves”, “The man who knew too much” and “Southern alert”. By the end of this decade, Morocco attracted more and more foreign filmmakers to shoot not only police and spy intrigue, but also stories referring to mythology and exoticism. This period has also seen the beginnings of Moroccan fiction.

Two trends emerged from this multifaceted “colonial productions”, films that consider Morocco as an open-air plateau or stage where primitive beings circulate without their own form or identity and where Moroccans are limited to figuration, these films fall into the category of literature and art in the service of colonial culture; and films that immerse themselves in the local imagination to tell stories involving natives with local actors. Most of the films that fall in the second category and that were shot in Morocco and more specifically in Amazigh cities and villages in the High, Middle or Anti Atlas, were characterized by the presence of the Amazigh personalities and stories in the films. Accordingly, as early as the 1920s, many Amazigh characters and actors invaded the screen such as Yabla, Ella, Brahim, Bassou, Aissa and Itto. However, at this stage the Amazigh language was not used as we were still at the age of silent cinema.

It is in this cultural and socio-political context that the first Moroccan filmmakers will be introduced to the passion and the professions of cinema. The influence of Western, Egyptian, Soviet or other cinemas, as well as specific training for the film industry, will have a significant impact on the Moroccan cinema and will also have implications for its future prospects. Once Morocco regained its national sovereignty in 1956, the State encouraged via the CCM, a large production of short films where young filmmakers freshly trained in prestigious film schools either in France, or in socialist countries and Egypt, will enter the scene from 1968 and will give the Moroccan filmography its golden age especially in its documentary short film version. In this period, Mohamed Ousfour, a pioneer and self-taught filmmaker, directed what was considered the first Moroccan feature film “The Cursed Son” produced and broadcast in 1958.

However, in the aftermath of independence, Moroccan leaders began an ambitious Arabization policy that was to gradually replace French language with Arabic. It all began in 1961 when the government tried to arabize education and then the administration and the police services. The Moroccan state with the complicity of nationalists’ parties and religious conservatives defined five components of Moroccan identity: Islam, constitutional monarchy, national unity, the Maliki rite, and the Arabic language. All Moroccans had to identify with these foundations designed to preserve the nation's place among the “Arab Nation” and other Muslim countries. But the promotion of Arabic required its protection by legislation, with Moroccan leaders judging that its preservation was a duty dictated by Islam. Indeed, the first constitution of sovereign Morocco established Arabic as the sole official language and Islam the official religion of the state so as to assert the country’s Arabo-Islamic identity, and eventually its cultural independence from French and Western influence. Consequently, the indigenous Amazigh identity, culture, and language were totally ignored and the Amazigh people actively silenced and marginalized in post-independent Morocco. Arabic language was presented as the language and culture of unity, tradition, and ‘authenticity’ with a reference to Islam. This post-colonial national mythmaking based on the Arab-Muslim model and ideology, intentionally disregarded the socio-cultural plurality of the Moroccan society. Accordingly, in this period, Moroccan cinema has gone through highs, but mostly downs since cinema and other mass media such as state radio and television were used as propaganda tools. As a consequence, Moroccan cinema was snubbed by the intelligentsia and the general public. This was the trend till the 1980s where a boost will be given with the first program of public aid and subsidy to the cinema industry which considerably developed between 1982 and 1984 and had as a result the creation of the first National Film Festival in 1982 in Rabat. The 90s will be a turning point in the Moroccan cinema as it will realize for the first time a historical reconciliation with its audience with the production of films such as “A love in Casablanca” by Abdelkader Lagtaâ, (1991) and “In search of the Husband of my wife” by Mohamed Abderrahman Tazi, (1993). This same decade was characterized by the proliferation of Amazigh video and the birth of Amazigh cinema with the production of the first Amazigh feature films in Morocco “Tamghart Ourgh” (the Golden Woman) by Lahoucine Bizguaren in 1990. The Amazigh public has adhered to the story of this first movie about a strong woman with exemplary personality, able to face the obstacles and to assert and support with dignity the absence of her husband staying abroad. This first feature Amazigh Moroccan film broke the taboos and opened the closed doors for the proliferation of an Amazigh audiovisual and cinema industry. As a consequence, many producers come on the scene and more successful films such as “Tigigilt/The orphan” (1992) and “Tilila/Rescue” (2006) and “Tamazirt Oufella” (2008) by Mohamed Merniche, “Tihiya” by A. Larbi, “Imzwag”, “Hamou Ounamir”, “Boutfounast and the 40 thieves” by Agouram Salout (1993), attracted wide interest. Accordingly between 1992 and 2012 more than 220 Amazigh video films were produced.

The emergence and proliferation of Amazigh films in the Moroccan film landscape marked a qualitative leap in favour of the revitalization of the Amazigh language and the promotion of its culture as a fundamental component of national identity. Many of these films have as their main message the attachment to Amazigh identity, the attachment to the native land and to the mother tongue. Indeed several Moroccan Amazigh films draw their filmic content in the Amazigh cultural heritage in order to highlight the richness of the Amazigh culture and the importance of its ancestral cultural legacy. In their film productions, some filmmakers also try to focus on the features of Amazigh identity and the radiant aspects of Amazigh customs, oral tradition, artistic expressions, knowledge and know-how. In these films, Amazigh identity and culture are expressed on several levels, through the local toponymy and the space where the events of the film take place; the anthroponomy and names of the characters who are appropriately chosen to reveal an identity belonging; Amazigh architecture, furniture and decorative motifs; jewellery and traditional clothes; traditional dishes; oral traditions and expressions; traditional music and dances; and rituals and social practices…Amazigh cinema then presents itself as a tool of social criticism that draws its specificity from the social reality and the social facts engraved in the individual as well as the collective memory, so as to prevent the negative behaviours and to contribute to changing the self-image of Amazigh-speaking populations by revaluing their language and culture and reinforcing the noble values ​​of the Amazigh societies.

Amazigh Film Festivals

A film festival is an annual event in which films are showcased in cinemas or public screenings, usually in a given location and for a limited period of time. The festival can be devoted to a specific cinema or film genre (fantasy, horror, animation, etc.) or a particular subject (documentary, independent cinema, short film, etc.) or devoted to local, national or international films such as the Iranian, African, or Amazigh film in North Africa. Faced with the proliferation of Amazigh film productions and with the obstacles to the establishment of a viable economy for Amazigh cinema as a result of the virtual absence of distribution networks to generate and re-inject revenues in the production circuit, the need to organize Amazigh film festivals became a necessity in-as-much-as national film festivals in Maghrebian countries did not allow the participation and nomination of Amazigh movies. Indeed, Amazigh film festivals are central for the promotion of an Amazigh film since distributors are hardly involved in the production of films, unlike in traditional film economies and countries where a film industry is well developed. The idea of ​​organizing the first Amazigh film festival in Morocco was then born and its first edition was organized by the AMREC association in Casablanca in July 2000, ten years after the production of the first Amazigh film. This first edition was promoted by the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Communication, the Moroccan Cinema Center (CCM) and various Amazigh cultural organizations. Many Moroccan alongside Algerian Amazigh films were screened during this first edition of the festival. For twenty years, the number of festivals specializing in Amazigh films has exploded. More than thirteen film festivals currently exist in North Africa and the rest of the world. The most important Amazigh film festivals are the “Festival Issni N'Ourgh International du Film Amazigh” (FINIFA) held annually since 2007 in Agadir (Morocco), “Festival Rif du Film Amazigh” organized by “L’atelier Cinematographique” in Tetouan (Morocco); “Festival Culturel National du Film Amazigh” (FCNFA) held in Tizi-Ouzou (Algeria); “Festival Tafsut pour le Cinema Amazigh Maghrebain” held in Tafraout (Morocco); “Amazigh Film Festival of Boston” (USA), “New York Forum of Amazigh Film” (NYFAF) organized by Lagardia College CUNY (USA); “Amazigh Film Festival of Los Angeles” organized by Tazzla Institute (USA), Festival international du film Amazigh de Montreal (Canada) and “Festival international des Films Bérbère de Paris” organized by Berber TV in Paris (France). Through these major Amazigh festivals, the various stakeholders of Amazigh cinema and Amazigh activists and artists sought to assert their own artistic identity, in addition to being places of exchange and professional emulation. All contribute to the diffusion of films in the Maghrebian countries and around the world. They also participate in the structuring of a professional environment in connection with a global film and audio-visual economy. They are often an opportunity for producers to present their film in preview and eventually to promote the selected filmmakers and movies. In addition to film screenings, some festivals offer additional services to their participants and audience such as conferences and meetings, symposia, workshops and feedback, training sessions, video library which is a viewing service on individual television spots and films selected or presented at the festival, and eventually archiving service.

The Festival Isni N'ourgh of the Amazigh film FINIFA (Agadir, Morocco)

The Festival Isni N'ourgh of the Amazigh film (FINIFA) is held annually in Agadir south of Morocco with the aim of promoting the Amazigh cinema through the screenings of productions in the Amazigh language and its local varieties. The festival also aims to build relationships between different stakeholders in the field of Amazigh cinema and their international counterparts and to make productions in this language known worldwide. The earlier vision of the Issni N'Ourgh Festival provided an adequate place for the Amazigh film in the Moroccan cinema scape, as well as the promotion of the Amazigh component which encompasses language, culture and identity. The first edition of the festival was held in August 2007 and was preceded by a “Cinema Caravan” that toured several southern Amazigh cities including the provinces of Tata, Tiznit, Guelmim and Ouarzazate from April 10 to 20, 2007 with the aim of making the Amazigh film visible to the audience and public in remote cities and villages through screenings. For this first edition, an official short and feature film competition was organized. Accordingly, twenty films were preselected, nine of which were chosen to participate in the final competition and eventually five prizes were awarded by a jury consisting of film professionals and Amazigh cultural activists. Many side events were organized during this first edition such as film training sessions for the sake of young film makers and a tribute to the team of the first Amazigh film “Tamghart Ouargh” and more specifically for its director Lhoucine Beyzgarne.

The second edition of Issni N'ourgh film festival featured Algerian as well as Moroccan Amazigh films in addition to a conference under the theme “The Amazigh Film in National Media”. The jury of this second edition was chaired by the film critic Mohamed Bakrim, and was composed of Elhachmi Assad, the general manager of the Amazigh International Film Festival of Algeria; Tahar Houchi, a film critic and director of the Festival of Oriental Film of Geneva (Switzerland); Amina Ibnou Cheikh, director of the journal “The Amazigh World”; Mohamed Sallou, member of Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM); the poetess Malika Mezzan, the actor and Director Abderrazaq Zitouni; Driss Azdoud, director of the Center for Artistic Studies and Literary Expressions and Audio-visual Production in IRCAM and Nezha Drissi, producer and director of the International Documentary Film Festival of Agadir.

For its third edition (4-10 May, 2009), the Festival has chosen to pay tribute to Swiss cinema. This choice reflects the orientations of the Festival’s organizers to open up other cultures and film productions and to celebrate cultural exchange in the spirit of tolerance and diversity. The program of this edition was then the result of a partnership with the “International Oriental Film Festival of Geneva” and the “Geneva Film School”.

The 4th edition (5-9 October 2010) of the Festival paid tribute to the Kurdish cinemas. However, more than 31 short and feature films, video films and documentaries from France, Niger, Mali, Algeria, Switzerland, Canada, Turkey and Morocco were selected for the official competition. Moreover, the Algerian singer and star Lunes Ait Menguelat was the guest of honor of this 4th edition. Nevertheless, this event was mainly marked by the organization of the Amazigh National Prize: category of the Amazigh film, awarded by the IRCAM for the celebration of the 9th anniversary of the King’s Speech of Ajdir. In parallel with the film screenings and competition, the “Amazigh Heritage Museum of Agadir” hosted a visual arts exhibition around the documentary film entitled “Free Signs” by the Canadian directors Laurent Dominique Fontaine and Samuel Torello.

The 5th edition (6-9 October, 2011) of the Issni N'Ourgh International Festival was organized in partnership with the Royal Institute Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) and in collaboration with the Ouarzazate Film Commission (OFC) and the Geneva International Oriental Film Festival. This new edition confirmed the success of previous editions that have highlighted the progress made by the young Amazigh cinema which continues to assert itself both nationally and internationally thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of its pioneers who paved the way for young filmmakers. The Indian cinema of the Americas was the guest of honor of this fifth edition, notably through the Peruvian director César Galindo. Three prizes were also awarded during this edition: the National Award for Amazigh Culture (category of film), the Issni N'Ourgh Prize for documentary film, and the Film Critics' Prize.

The sixth edition (26-30 september, 2012), was a tribute to Tuareg cinema through the reception of the films: “Imshuradj” by the Tuareg director Akli Shakka; “Toumast ... Guitars and Kalashnikovs” by the Swiss director Dominique Margo, and by the organization of the exhibition of the Tuareg painter “Haouad” held at the Amazigh Heritage Museum of Agadir. More, an international conference under the theme “cinema and memory”, was organized in parallel with the festival. To encourage the production of Amazigh films, the FINIFA launched in partnership with the Council of the city of Agadir an “Aid fund” to support and encourage Amazigh audiovisual productions and artistic creation by subsidizing three best scenarios that meet the criteria set by the selection committee. This support fund is intended for short films in Amazigh language, with a maximum duration of 15 minutes and whose author-director should be of Moroccan nationality. The idea of ​​launching this grant program came because of the lack of a clear strategy of the CCM and the Ministry of Communication vis-à-vis Amazigh film production.

The 7th edition (23-28 september, 2013) was a form of protest to express the discontent of the organizers for the policy of exclusion of the Ministry of Communication against Amazigh cinema and for the limited subsidy granted by the Moroccan film center (CCM) for the organization of the festival. Thus, the organizing committee decided to suspend the projection of the Amazigh films as well as the official competition of the 7th edition of the FINIFA. However, this edition paid tribute to Catalan cinema and the programme was based on various themes related to the relationship between cinema, literature and politics. Moreover, many training workshops were organized in favour of young filmmakers and especially those selected for the “Issni N'Ourgh Aid Fund for the Amazigh film”.

The 8th edition (18-21 November, 2014) was organized under the theme of “Human Rights”. More than 65 feature and short films, documentaries and video works participated in the official competition. Films by the French director Mylène Soloy and English director and producer Peter Gardiner were also screened in relation to the theme of human rights. Moreover, in parallel with the festival a lecture about “The Amazigh people and history” was held at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Agadir and an exhibition by the photographer Youness El Alaoui under the theme “Human Rights” was organized at the Hall of the Municipality of the city of Agadir.

The 9th edition (2-6 November 2015) paid tribute to the Moroccan filmmaker Hakim Belabbes and the Tunisian director and politician Salma Baccar and screened her film “Fatma 75”, a film which was censored in Tunisia for more than 30 years. The academic part of this edition was marked by the organization of a series of conferences on the future of Amazigh cinema and the role of new technology in its development.

The 10th edition (1-5 November, 2016) was held under the theme “Agadir, capital of Amazigh culture” and the Canary Islands was the guest of honor because of the long history and many shared cultural elements between the Amazigh of North Africa and the Guanches, the indigenous Amazigh people of these islands. Accordingly, eight Canarian films were showcased during the festival. Among the films screened were “The Four Ropes” by director Amaury Santana, “Everything in its time” by Oscar Santamaria and Marine Discazeaux, “Mah” by Armando Ravelo, “Milodrama” by Cris Noda and Cayetana H. Cuyas, “Aman” by Estrella Montyerry, “Modernity” by Jairo Lopez, and “Sliman” by Jose A. Alayón. In parallel with the film competition and screenings, the festival organized a conference on the theme “Cinema and society”, in partnership with the council of the city of Agadir, the Royal Institute of Amazigh culture, the Regional Council of Souss-Massa and the Regional Council of Tourism. A tribute was made to two Amazigh artists by posthumously awarding the “Ajmil prize” to the Kabyle singer Maatoub Lounes, murdered in 1998, and to the visual artist Abellah Aourik in recognition to their contributions to the Amazigh culture. This edition was in line with the international debate on violence and counter-terrorism and considered cinema as a tool for popularizing the discourse of tolerance, fraternity, solidarity and advocating peace.

The 11th edition (2-6 April, 2018) had Portugal as guest of honor. After a decade of work for Amazigh cinema and culture, this edition remained faithful to the same vision of making Agadir a capital of Amazigh culture, while capitalizing on the know-how that has combined the artistic experiences from Morocco, North Africa and elsewhere. The opening ceremony was marked by the screening of the documentary film “Canarias Amazigh” directed by Antonio Bonny and Pablo Rodriguez on the indigenous populations of the Canary Islands. More, a posthumous tribute was paid to Ider Yehya, one of the pioneers of the film industry in Morocco.

As part of a movement of development and promotion of Amazigh cinema, the FINIFA confirmed its position as catalyst event on the national and international Amazigh film scene. Indeed, this festival has tried since its inception to bring the Amazigh film product to the general public while creating a movement of artistic competition between filmmakers and motion picture production companies with the aim of professionalizing the sector and encouraging the various actors and stakeholders in the national audio-visual sector to contribute to the promotion of Amazigh film production. The festival also succeeded in advocating the concept of intercultural exchange and the spirit of tolerance by the presentation and the projection of a rich and diversified international filmography.

The International Festival of Amazigh Film of Montreal FIFAM (Canada)

The first edition of the International Festival of Amazigh Film of Montreal was held on Saturday September 30, 2017 at the Cinémathèque québécoise in downtown Montreal and was dedicated to the victims of terrorism in the world. This first edition also celebrated “women and exile and opposed beauty to barbarism and dialogue to chaos”. Five films participated in the official competition of this first edition: “Looks” by Noureddine Kebaili; “Hallal Rose” by Ali Reggane; “Yidir” by Tahar Houchi; “Postcard” of Mahassine El Hachadi; “Dwagi id asirem” by Rida Amrani, and “Salah, a Kabyle of Palestine” by Tahar Houchi. The second edition was held at Concordia University in Montreal on 5-6 October 2018 and celebrated freedom with a focus on the Amazighs of the desert, Palestine, Egypt and the Canary Islands. It opened with the film “Fatma N'soumer”, an epic on the great heroin of Algerian resistance against the colonial occupation, in the presence of its director Belkacem Hadjadj. The festival also featured “Iperita”, a film by Mohamed Bouzaggou on the catastrophic effects of the release of mustard gas on civilians during the Rif’s war (1921-1926) between the Rif’s tribes and the Spanish army. Concerning the category of documentary, the FIFAM presented Yazid Arab's “Racont'Arts” (2015), Dadoud Hassan's “Berbers of Egypt”, Louisa Beskri's “Birds”, “Salah a Kabyle in Palestine” by Tahar Houchi's, and the film “Canaria Amazigh” by Antonyo Bonny and Pablo Rodriguez. Six short films participated in the official competition: “Akhnif Abrach” by Noura Azeroual; “The one who burns” by Slimane Bounia; “Human” by Issam Taachit; “Lydia” by Anita Dewton Moukkes; “Sequence 1” by Nourredine Kebaili, and “A sentence to live” by Amroun Omar.

The Annual National Cultural Festival of Amazigh Film FCNAFA (Tizi-Ouzzou, Algeria)

The Amazigh Film Festival was created and propelled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Amazighity on 1999. It was then institutionalized by a decree of the Ministry of Culture in December 25, 2005 and was officially called “The Annual National Cultural Festival of Amazigh Film” (FCNAFA). The main purpose of the FCNAFA is to present the Amazigh films with a subtitle in Arabic, French or other languages. Its programming is composed of recent works, unseen or rare movies and films that are still not very widely disseminated. The Amazigh film festival explores cinema works from an artistic, sociological, historical and identity approach and vision by the adoption of an original artistic line that relates to the Algerian cultural and linguistic mosaic. The festival started by being itinerant so as to reach the big cities of Algeria. It was then displaying its own identity in the form of a “traveling encounter” which constituted a bridge between the different regions of Algeria with the aim of rehabilitating the plural culture. However, starting from 2010, the festival definitely set in the city of Tizi-Ouzou in the Kabylia region.

The FCNAFA has many objectives. First, the promotion of Amazigh Algerian cinema and the encouragement of the artistic creation in this language; second, the encouragement of cultural action and its development through peripheral activities; third, the enrichment of the cultural and artistic production and its diffusion in Algeria and abroad; and finally, the creation of a framework of exchange of experiences and expertise between Algerians and foreign artists, creators, cultural operators.

It should be noted that during the 16th edition of the FCNAFA held in 2018, the grand prize “Olivier d'or (Golden Olive) for the best feature film” was canceled by the jury, for the “poor” quality of films. Indeed, one of the biggest challenges of the 17th edition held on 29 February 2019 was to find quality films which respect the technical and artistic standards of Cinema, especially in the category of feature films. The members of the jury had thus emphasized in the list of recommendations, the need to organize training workshops in the various aspects of the production of a cinema work in order to restore the Amazigh cinema. With this in mind, the last edition of the FCNAFA organized in its activities a training workshop on “script writing”, led by Malek Laggoun. This workshop focused on the fundamentals of dramaturgy and the mastery of all the rules and narrative processes that make up the writing of the script.

New York Forum of Amazigh Film NYFAF (USA)

The New York Forum of Amazigh Film (NYFAF) is organized by LaGuardia Community College and sponsored by LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, International Oriental Film Festival of Geneva, and Columbia University Middle East Institute. The festival is a cultural gathering that brings together professors, anthropologists, filmmakers, experts, students and members of the community of New York to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about the Amazigh culture and heritage in the Maghreb region and beyond. It is meant as a “showcase of contemporary feature, documentary, and short films by and about the Amazigh people of North Africa and in the diaspora” and aims at disseminating Amazigh cinema and other audio-visual productions and at promoting an understanding of the unique history, culture, and language of the indigenous Amazigh peoples in North Africa and in the diaspora. The first edition of the forum was held on 12-13, March 2015 under the theme New Voices in an Old World: The Berbers of North Africa. The following editions had different themes such as “Breaking Borders and Bias: Human Rights, Minority Rights and Artistic Expressions” (NYFAF2016); “Transmission and Resistance: Towards a Pluralistic Society” (NYFAF 2017); “Coming of Age in the #MeToo Moment: North African Women's Perspectives” (NYFAF 2018). For the forthcoming edition (NYFAF 2019), the organizers have chosen the topic of “Exploring North African Identities”.

International Berber Film Festival FIFB (Paris, France)

The International Berber Film Festival (FIFB) was created at the initiative of Mohammed Saadi, the founding president of the first Amazigh television in the world: Berbère Télévision (BRTV) in Paris (France). The festival does not benefit from any Maghrebian or North African state financial aid, but it enjoys the support of several French institutions, including the Ministry of Culture, the City of Paris, the regional council of Île-de-France, the National Center for Cinema and Animated Image (CNC), the National Agency for Social Cohesion and Equal Opportunities (ACSE) and “Image à la Diversité”. The festival aims to promote the Amazigh cinema and other audio-visual productions from North Africa and to favor the discovery of new talents (directors, writers, producers and technicians of the profession). It also aims to encourage meetings and professional exchanges between Amazigh, North African, French, European and festival participants. More, the festival has other objectives such as the creation of a production support fund with the aim to develop an Amazigh and North African movie market and film industry. The first edition (19-21 April 2013) was held at “Les trois Luxembourg” Cinema in Paris, and had the director Daniel Prévost as president of the jury. During the three days of the festival, six short and five feature films were showcased, and six documentaries participated in the official competition. Other films were also in the spotlight such as “The Forgotten Hill” of Abderrahmane Bouguermouh, or “Indigènes” by Rachid Bouchareb's. The second edition was held from May 30th to May 31st, 2015 at the “Luminor Hôtel de Ville” in Paris and was sponsored by the singer Idir. The jury was composed of Tassadit Yacine (president), Youcef Aloui and Mokrane Gacem.


Amazigh Film Festivals are spaces for dialogue and exchange of experiences between the different stakeholders of Amazigh cinema such as filmmakers, producers, artists, scholars, and critics…More, these encounters are a suitable occasion for the training of students and for building the capacities of young filmmakers by providing opportunities scholarships, grants, script reading, project competition, linking project promoters with funders and producers... All contribute to the diffusion of films in Maghrebian countries and around the world. They also participate in the structuring of a professional environment in connection with a global film and audio-visual economy. They are often an opportunity for producers to present their film in preview and eventually to promote the selected filmmakers and films. The national and international Amazigh film festivals contribute then effectively to the promotion of the film production and to overcome the difficulties that hinder the development of an Amazigh film industry. They eventually contribute to the revitalization of the Amazigh language, culture and identity in Maghrebian countries and elsewhere.


Kruse, J,E. (2013). Amazigh-state Relations in Morocco and Algeria. Unpublished Ph.D thesis. Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School

Redouane, R. (1998). Arabization in the Moroccan Educational System: Problems and Prospects, Language, Culture and Curriculum, 11:2, 195-203, DOI: 10.1080/07908319808666550

Soussi, S. (2018). Analysis of the Opposing Processes of Amazigh Revitalization and Endangerment in Morocco. In FEL XXI: Learning Tools and Strategies for Multilingual Endangered Communities: Proceedings of the Foundation for Endangered Languages , Mercator-SOAS World Languages Institute, CIDLeS. Ed. By Nicholas Ostler, Vera Ferreira and Christoppher Moseley.