'Fragments From Heaven', on Saturday 20 August screening and round table discussion with director Adnane Baraka

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Institutional Communication Service

19 August 2022

In the Moroccan desert, nomadic shepherds traverse the vast spaces in search of meteorites to sell to scientists studying the origin of life. This is the starting point for 'Fragments From Heaven' by the young Moroccan director Adnane Baraka: selected at the 75th Locarno Film Festival in the Cineasti del presente section, the film was screened on Saturday 20 August at 5 pm in the Aula magna of the Lugano Campus as part of the MEM Summer Summit. Following the screening, at 6.30 p.m., there was a round table discussion in which, in addition to the director, Vega Tescari of Università della Svizzera italiana and, via a video link, Lebanese producer and director Firas Abou Fakher.

The film, Baraka explained in an interview published by the newspaper laRegione, “can be considered a documentary, a fiction film, or a hybrid work, because in the end I believe that cinematic expression transcends these distinctions”. When this project began, in 2014, “the idea was to make a documentary on the search for meteorites scattered around the desert, combined with a testimony from the scientists who analysed these celestial objects to see how two distinct and separate existences were united by their interest in the same object”. Then “during the writing phase and especially during filming, I let go of these 'organic' aspects of the story: the creative process took over and I no longer asked myself whether this film was a documentary, whether it was reality or fiction”.

Baraka was directly involved in the shooting, acting as both cameraman and sound engineer. “I was alone: I obviously had guides who helped me but more from a logistical point of view, as the 'technical team' of the film was just me”. What did that mean? “It was a natural choice: I wanted to be behind the camera, to be able to capture the moment before losing it while explaining to the cameraman what he has to do”. Filming lasted two and a half years: “It was necessary to return several times: in the end, and this perhaps is what makes the difference between a documentary and a fiction film, you can try to provoke an event or a situation but in the end you depend on what happens in front of you”.

Of the film’s strengths, one is the apparent paradox of searching for traces of the origin of life in an arid and inhospitable place. “Yes, the desert has always been a mystical, mysterious, metaphorical place: in the end, did we go to the desert in search of meteorites or looking for answers that are unattainable?" And here Baraka reminds us of the phrase of one of the characters in the film: “It is not we who live in the desert, it is the desert that lives in us”.

One of the contrasts in the film is between the difficult living conditions of nomadic shepherds and the relative well-being of those who, like the scientists, live in the city: does the theme have a political and social value? “Social it may be, political I don't know. For me, what drove me to make this film is the human being in all its entirety, it is humanity in the face of perdition, doubt, the desire to change its ways”. One of the film's ambitions, continued the director, is to tell a small part of the great human complexity, the one represented by these nomads to whom we wanted to give a voice "without misery but giving them visibility as people guided by the same passions, the same questions as everyone else".

Is it difficult for a filmmaker to work in Morocco? “It is difficult to get funding for documentaries in Morocco, especially if they are first works, because the Centre cinématographique marocain has a somewhat paradoxical policy: to get financial support you need to have already made either three short films or a feature film. As for authorisations, on the other hand, everything was quick and easy because the film does not touch on sensitive or political issues”.

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