“The Blue Caftan”, a film by Moroccan director Maryam Touzani, openly depicts homosexual love in a country where consensual same-sex acts are punishable by up to three years' imprisonment.
Set in Sale a city next to the capital of Rabat, “The Blue Caftan” tells the story of Halim and his wife Mina, a couple who make and sell traditional robes in one of Morocco's oldest souks.
Their relationship is rocked by the arrival of a handsome young apprentice, forcing Halim to confront his feelings as he falls in love with his apprentice, Youssef.
"I think that today we are starting to become more open because we are starting to see articles in the media that talk about people from the LGBT community, whereas before they were never mentioned. In other words, they are starting to exist in the eyes of society and in the media, which is already a big step forward. But I think we are still quite far away," explains the director.
Shortlisted for the International Feature Film category ahead of the Oscars, Touzani hopes that her work can change mentalities and lead towards acceptance.
According to local media, at least 70% of the community reported being subject to some form of violence due to their sexual orientation.
"What I want to achieve through this film is creating empathy for the characters, getting to know them, giving them a chance to understand who they are, to love them as they are. Moreover, that is why it is a film about love for me above all, it is not a film about homosexuality, and it is a film about love. And I really think that nobody has the right to tell us how we can or cannot love, no matter where we live in the world,” adds Touzani.
“The Blue Caftan” is a bold art piece that dares to imagine a world where there is space for both appreciation of the old ways and room to evolve.
It is the second film representing Morocco to be shortlisted for the Oscars, after "Omar Killed Me" by French-Moroccan director Roschdy Zem.
The 95th Academy Awards will be held on March 12 in Hollywood.