“It is personal and autobiographical in a way,” he said during Kino Lorber’s panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film: International awards-season event. “I grew up in a suburb of Paris that was quite violent and very close to the one that we see in the film in Casablanca. And when I was young, I knew how to love myself and connect with myself through arts and culture: specifically a cultural center. And later on, when I became a director, thanks to that center, after a film that I made called Horses of God, I decided to build up the center in the suburb of Casablanca.”
Ayouch then filmed Casablanca Beats in that very establishment. “Every week, more than 1,000 young girls and boys have been coming to write their own stories, to change the world through arts and culture, and that’s what inspired me to do this movie.”
Ayouch also wrote and produced the film, and opted to cast the kids from the center itself.
“I decided one day that I would like to sit with them and hear the backgrounds, their backstories: where do they come from? Where do they live? And they opened their hearts,” he said. “I can tell you that this afternoon was a very strong moment for me in my life. And that’s when I decided that I would do this film, and that I would do this film with them.”
Check out the panel video above.