Born in 1948 in Tangier, Farida Benlyazid is a Moroccan director, producer,
screenwriter, writer and journalist. In 1970, she went to Paris to study literature and
cinema at the University of Vincennes, then at the École Supérieure d'Études
Cinématographiques. She did several film internships in the capital between 1976
and 1978 before founding her first production company, Kamar Films. As the first
female Moroccan producer, she produced Jillali Ferhati's A Breach in the Wall, which
was selected for the Semaine de la Critique at the Festival de Cannes in 1978. With
this experience, she created her own production company, Tingitania, in 1990 and
produced or co-produced her films until 2006.
In Paris, she first directed a short documentary, Identités de femmes, about North
African immigrants in the Paris region. She then wrote the screenplay for Araïs min
kassab / Poupées de roseau (Jillali Ferhati, 1981), which was selected for the
Directors' Fortnight in Cannes in 1982. It was in Morocco that Farida Benlyazid
wanted to make films and continue writing, so she eventually settled in Tangier.
After working as a scriptwriter for several Moroccan directors, including Mohamed
Abderrahman Tazi, for whom she wrote Badis (1989) and, later, Looking for My
Wife’s Husband (1995), she began directing the feature film, Bâb es-sama' maftûh /
A Door to the Sky (1988). In it, she depicts a woman's spirituality that is far removed
from orthodox (male) religious dictates on the one hand and from feminist
watchwords on the other. The film, which welected for many international festivals,
has had an intercontinental career and is discussed to this day.
She then made a short documentary in Mali, Aminata Traoré, une femme du Sahel
(1993), about the eponymous anti-globalisation activist.
Based on a popular tale, Benlyazid’s second feature film was Keïd Ensa /Women’s
Wiles (1999). Her next films and television movies took her to Casablanca (Dar
elbeïda, yâ dar elbeïda / Casablanca, Casablanca, 2002) before she returned to
Tangier to adapt a novel by Angel Vasquez, La Vida Perra de Juanita de Tanger / The
Wretched Life of Juanita Narboni (2006), which describes Tangier from the 1940s to
the 1990s and 2000s through the peregrinations and continuous soliloquy of a
heroine who is out of step with her own city.
Since that feature, apart from a fictional television film on slavery for 2M (Ster ma
strer Allah / Family Secret, 2010), Benlyazid has directed documentaries that take
her to the four corners of the country: Casaneyda (2007) ; Houdoudouahoudoud /
Frontieras (2013), a docu-drama ; and a series of documentaries financed by the
Meziane Foundation, which has the museum-like function of conserving Moroccan
cultural heritage: Tamy Tazi, Creations Over Time (2013); a series of ten
documentaries on Amazigh dances and music in remote villages of the Atlas
Mountains and the desert (2014–2015); and Amazigh Wedding in the Anergui Valley
After writing the script of a biopic, Fatema: La Sultane inoubliable (2022) for director
Mohamed Abderrahman Tazi, she embarked on a documentary project on Fatema
Mernissi for which she wrote the script, Sur les pas de Fatema.