Interviewed by: Ayoub and Ouja
The Greek philosopher Diogenes (about 421-323 BC) lived according to a philosophy based on asceticism, and believed that wisdom could only be achieved through emancipation and liberation. The human being, and that in order for the individual to be free, he must get as close as possible to nature and be satisfied with himself in order to get rid of all kinds of needs and connections.
One of the most famous stories that relate to the philosopher Diogenes and constitute a gateway to understanding his philosophy, is the one that occurred to him with Alexander the Great when he passed by the barrel of Diogenes, and stood before him with his entourage asking him if he had a need so that he could achieve it, and Diogans replied: Yes, please move a little, because you Block me sunlight.
We mentioned the story of the philosopher of asceticism in living, Diogans, because it resembles the story of the two heroes of the documentary film “In the Hand of God” that was shown on the Al-Jazeera documentary channel a few days ago, and it tells the story of Samir, nicknamed “Amo”, as he was choked by the daily routine of work and the city, and he decided to travel without a date to search On the authority of his friend Saeed Akli, who lives outside the framework of time and technological progress. Saeed does not use the phone or any modern means of communication, and lives according to a lifestyle similar to that of the Greek philosopher Diogans.
In this interview conducted by Al-Jazeera Documentary, the young director of the film, Muhammad Reza Kazanai, talks to us about the merits of this documentary work.
“In the Hand of God” was the last phrase Saeed uttered at the end of the film to his friend “Ammo” on his way back, but those who followed the documentary and the preparations for it will understand that the phrase “in the hand of God” is the basic idea of this work, which seems to have relied on little equipment. And a lot of passion and luck, so did the scenario that you prepared contain all the stories that accompanied your journey, or did they come in the hand of God?
Indeed, the journey was in the hands of God, in the beginning we had a general perception of the story, but on our way we encountered several things that we included in the film, and there are also events that imposed themselves on us, such as the advent of the month of Ramadan, where we expected our arrival to Saeed before that, and we were every morning When we wake up, we become acclimatized to the road and the events that encounter us, which made this film contain live and spontaneous scenes, these coincidences that I consider gifts from God.
As for the title of the film, I was inspired by Said’s words. When an uncle told him what happened to us during the trip, he replied, “You were in the hand of God.”
As for me, I believe that the documentary film is a journey of research, and that its writing is not necessarily ruled out in advance. Rather, writing can continue during filming, and the final writing ends with montage.
Moroccan director Mohamed Reda Kaznai, author of the documentary “In the Hand of God”
- How were you able to convince Al Jazeera Documentary to produce your film, even though you are still a recent graduate of documentary cinema, and you have one short documentary film entitled “The Sheikh and the Mountain”?
After the success of my short film “The Sheikh and the Mountain” that I directed during my studies with a master’s degree in documentary cinema in Tetouan, and its participation in several international cinematic events, and it won several awards, including the prize for the best short documentary film at the 35th session of the Alexandria Film Festival for the Mediterranean countries, and the award (Adobe Best of The Best) for Zayed University Film Festival (ZUMEFF) in Dubai; I decided to go through the experience of the long documentary film, and I was passionate about the idea of dealing with Al-Jazeera Documentary Channel to implement the idea of my film project, “In the Hand of God,” so I sent it, hoping for this dream to come true.
I think that the idea of the movie was an adventure, as it relied on the old time method that we missed due to modern technology, as the film expanded on Saeed Ammou’s saying: If you want to talk to me, go through the trouble of the road and find me.
From here I thank Al-Jazeera Documentary Channel that believed in me and my film project, and it was credited with its success at this high professional level, under the supervision of its staff who accompanied the development of the film until it became as you saw it. I was very happy with this achievement that pushed me to move forward in order to continue making films that express My thoughts and philosophy in cinema.
I think the film took its time, we filmed it before the last month of Ramadan (2020) in addition to some of its early days, and after we finished filming, I was very excited to start the post-production process, and I was not under the responsibility of completing it in the way I aspired to at the required time. And my carefully chosen team helped me.
I am very happy to show it during this holy month, and happy with the positive reaction it has received from the audience.
The poster for the documentary film “In the Hand of God”, which was shot in the Agdz region, in the eastern desert of Morocco
“Amo” the main character of the movie “In the Hand of God” is originally my uncle, and I was closely aware of his suffering and mistakes at work and his daily routine and constant nostalgia for the past, and one day he told me about a friend named Saeed, and he told me about the dialogue that took place between them, and that he was not He uses the cell phone at all, and wants to go on a trip to visit him, and to move away from the vortex in which he lives, to regain the same exhausted by the hustle and bustle of the world.
I liked this idea, and I felt that behind this dialogue was a story that could be a documentary film worthy of adventure. Since the trip will be on foot, I chose a team with great care, in a spirit of adventure, responsibility and professionalism, and each of us was able to master several tasks, because this type of film for me does not prefer a large film crew, as the shooting conditions are very harsh, We have to walk and photograph at the same time, and we have used mules to carry our equipment, clothes and tents. It is difficult to carry a large number of people in these conditions, which depend mainly on endurance.
The hero of the movie Samir, nicknamed “Amo”, who was choked with the daily routine of work and the city, and decided to travel without an appointment to find a friend.
I loved traveling since my childhood, traveling with my mom and dad, who used to take me with them on hiking trips in hard-to-reach natural areas, and this hobby continued to grow inside me, and whenever I got the opportunity I would go on an adventure to visit new places. This is what made me find great pleasure in filming documentaries about man and his relationship with nature, as the size of my love for nature and travel is equivalent to my love for cinema and creativity.
There is no doubt that I am a lover of travel and adventure films, and God willing, I will produce documentaries of this kind in the future, especially since Morocco is a country characterized by its unique and diverse geography, as well as its containment of multiple cultures that deserve attention and documentation, and this does not mean that I will not make other types of films, whether documentary Or a novelist, it is my nature to follow my inner sense from which I derive inspiration, and it is necessary for me to believe in the theme of the film that I will direct, as it must be in line with my philosophy and vision in life.
Behind the scenes of filming the movie “In the Hand of God” by Mohamed Reda Kaznai, which was filmed in the Agdz region in the Eastern Desert of Morocco
The phenomenon of filming “Vlogs” has spread in Morocco, which cannot be denied that it is a type of documentary that is popular with young recipients. Do you think that the documentary director should fuse with the new documentary genres, or stay true to the classic approach?
Although we do not deny the popularity that these so-called “Vlogs” videos have received by the young audience, we cannot compare them with the documentary film that relies on professional foundations and rules, in addition to creativity, using the mechanisms that enable the cinematographic production process. To elevate the spectator and make him wonder sometimes, and sometimes cry, and laugh at other times, as his senses and perception do, to find himself in front of a mirror, these things we do not find except in cinema, because they plunge into the depth of man.
- Was your film based on the ending that he met Uncle Saeed, what if you did not find him?
Our movie “In the Hand of God” was not based on meeting Uncle Said, during our trip we did not know whether we would find Saeed in his home or not, and my uncle intended to leave him a message if he did not find him in his home, and for me Saeed is not the goal, but the means That prompted Ammo to go on this journey and search for his happiness on the way, and fortunately for us, we tasted the happiness of the road and the happiness of a happy meeting.
The moment we meet Saeed Al-Akli, who lives outside the framework of technological progress, he does not use the phone or any modern means of communication
- You are a graduate of the Master of Documentary Cinema at Abdel Malek Saadi University, Morocco. Do you think that academic training is necessary in the documentary industry, or is passion alone enough to make a film?
By virtue of the fact that I am a master’s graduate specializing in documentary cinema, and also with other formations in the field of cinema and audiovisual, and by virtue of my modest experience in this field I think that passion is very necessary, but it is not sufficient on its own. Rather, it is important to enhance the passion and talent for training, research and practice, and to keep abreast of developments in the field. Training gives you a space to know yourself, and to test your abilities due to the friction that you live in an environment that shares the love of cinema and the love of development and excellence, and also It entitles you to approach professionals in the field and benefit from the expertise of the professors. I consider that training is the fuel that will further ignite your talent so that your passion becomes more glowing.
At the end of the film, Saeed bade farewell to his friend Ammo and told him, “Just as you came to visit me, I might come to visit you someday.” When I heard this, I felt the spark of a new movie story, but I don’t know if it will really start.