Nikka Lorak is a Belgian film director, based in London, has recently finished shooting her new film The Outsider (working title Life in Silence) in Morocco.
Moroccolondon caught up with the up and coming director to find out more about her experience with movie making in Morocco.
You are from a theatre background what drew you into filmmaking?
Yes, indeed, my background lays in stage directing. After 10 years of working in the theater, I realized that cinematography offers greater possibilities for storytelling, comparing to two dimensional, symbolic decoration of stage. Also, one of my old friends, steadicam operator Olivier Merckx, ‘seduced’ me with the visual opportunities the screen has to offer.
You have just finished shooting your latest film The Outsider, filmed in the mountains of Morocco, why did you choose the location?
Living in Egypt for more than 5 years, I have observed the lifestyle, which can be fascinating for a European. I believe that a rural North African village is the ideal place for the exotic journey I want to take my audience. Morocco had been chosen for its exotic locations, developed film infrastructure and distinctive traditional country lifestyle.
Thomas Kadman who also stars in Shelock Holmes is the main character in your movie, how was it working him?
Casting for the role of ‘Photographer’, I wanted to find an actor who had experience as a traveller. I always develop the character together with the actor, drawing from his personal experience. After meeting more than 20 auditioning for the role, I met Thomas who definitely ‘ticked all the boxes’: In his early thirties, Thomas had travelled alot and demonstrated perfect understanding of the subject explored in the project – cultural clash, acceptance/rejection of a foreigner in the traditional society, curiosity and anxiety of a traveller.
The collaboration with Thomas had been particularly beneficial, because besides being an actor, Thomas had produced few films. His realized all the challenges the independent filmmakers face, and had always been very supportive, responsive to my directions and charming to the crew and local cast. We had developed friendship which is build on successful collaboration. I am looking forward to the next project which will benefit from Thomas’ brilliant performance.
Looking at the stunning landscape on your scene shots on your blog, how did it feel filming in such a unique location?
Morocco is a unique country, concerning the diversity of its landscape. Eventually, after a week of scouting, we had decided to film in two locations- in a village beside Marrakech and in the mountains in the Gorges de Todra. We have managed to find the locations which recreate the places I had in mind while writing the script. Each of them has its particular, distinctive looks: the village is monochrome sandy yellow, can be compared to the set of Tatooin (Star Wars) and the mountains are picturesque, impressive giants, with a palm forest at its feet, can bring the memories of Indiana Jones locations
You can speak 4 languages and have traveled extensively around the world how important is it for you to understand different cultures, and did this help in Morocco?
I started traveling at the age of 17, to discover at my current 30s that I understand the language of majority countries I visit. I speak 6 languages and its a great support in understanding the local culture. In fact, I believe that one will never discover the foreign culture in depth, until he will be able to speak its language. I didn’t find any language difficulties while filming in Morocco: I speak both Arabic and French. However since I speak an Egyptian dialect of Arabic, the help of first assistant was necessary in translating particularly difficult words on set.
Were there any technical difficulties, what was your main challenge?
Strangely enough, the biggest challenges in my Moroccan production had come from the European crew. Moroccan collaborators had saved the project and acted very professionally.
How was it working with Moroccan actors and crew?
Working with Moroccan cast and crew was an outstanding experience. Most of my actors were kids and I was amazed how hard working and generous they were. As for the crew, its only thanks to the DOP, Marouane Bahrar and camera operator Houyam Hou, the project had been successfully accomplished. The originally assigned italian DOP, had left the project on the second day, being unable to cope with the production. Marouane and Houyam had immediately joined the crew after they have heard that I need help. It had been incredibly generous from their side and I am more then pleased with the result.
If you could tell us about your movie in one word, what would this be?
What is the best memory you have filming in Morocco?
My best memory from filming in Morocco is returning back to Marrakech from the mountains of Atlas when we finished shooting the film. All the cast and crew were exhausted, but felt very united and satisfied with the work we had done. Another moment I recall, is the wrap party, which had been organized for the crew after the postproduction had been finished. We switched the light off to project the film and I suddenly felt so much trust and love from these people towards me. Being surrounded by supportive enthusiasts, who believe in you, is the best thing any director can wish for.
Now that you have filmed an amazing movie in one of the best film locations in the world, where does Film Director Nikka Lorka want to go from here?
Well my priority is promoting ‘The Outsider’ and raising funds for the feature based on the same plot. Apart from that, I am working on my next projects – a drama ‘Dreams and Beyond’ and a documentary on the virus of Noma in South Africa.