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Hicham Hajji is moving Morocco from the background to the foreground of the film industry with his films. Where will he go next in his award-winning career?

MOROCCO BECOMING AN ENTERTAINMENT HUB THANKS TO HICHAM HAJJI

Known as the “Kingdom of the Evening,” Morocco is now poised to become the “Epicenter of Filmmaking” thanks to native son and movie-making mage Hicham Hajji. Hicham’s career trajectory has undoubtedly been unconventional. 

He started his professional life as an accountant. Eventually, he found himself intrigued by the idea of shooting features in his native land and took the initiative to learn and practice the art of filmmaking, learning the ropes through a hands-on approach.

“I did a little film school in Montreal, but to be honest my real film school was my first movie set as a 2nd Assistant Director where I learned a lot from one of the best 1st AD I ever met,” he explained to Film Combat Syndicate.

hicham hajji

A Moroccan by birth, Hicham’s homeland was integral to his formation as a film producer. “Morocco is an open movie set,” he explains. “Very film friendly where the biggest Hollywood directors have shot. 

From Nolan with Inception to Ridley Scott with Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator, Body of Lies to Mission Impossible 5, James Bond, Kundun by Scorsese. . . I worked on many local [productions] where I was a head of department and where I learned a lot. 

Then I worked with Werner Herzog on Queen of the Desert where I understood that with [hard] work and dedication, I could do my own movies someday.”

hicham hajji

Eventually, Hicham went on to establish his own production company, H FiLMS, in 2008. While this was a triumphant career milestone in many ways, it was also underscored by professional pushback from other players throughout the industry.

“I created my company while I was a First Assistant Director. Producers who were hiring me back then started to see me as competition and stopped hiring me,” he recalls.

Nevertheless, Hicham was not deterred by this career blackballing. Rather, he used this opposition as an impetus to stake his claim in the industry and succeed regardless.

hicham hajji

“I had to be efficient and find my way in. It was a lot of personal and financial investment. Sometimes I wouldn’t work for months until I got the project that helped me survive. The only real lesson that I learned is that I should never give up, always follow my gut, and finish everything I do,” he explains.

With multiple offices spanning Los Angeles to North Africa, the aim of H FiLMS is simple: “[To] tell great stories in unique ways and in a variety of genres to make movies that resonate with audiences both domestically and abroad.” Suffice it to say, they have been resoundingly successful in meeting this goal. 

Earlier this year, Hicham made history when H FiLMS released his feature film debut, Redemption Day, making him the first Moroccan Arab to write, direct and fully produce a Moroccan international feature film.

hicham hajji

The film follows a decorated U.S. Marine Captain, Brad Paxton (Gary Dourdan), as he tries to reintegrate into civilian life, having just returned home to New York City from his tour of duty in the Middle East. 

He is enjoying reconnecting with his loved ones, including his wife, Kate (Serinda Swan), their pre-teen daughter, Clair (Lilia Hajji), and his father, Ed (Ernie Hudson).

When Kate receives an offer from her job to travel to Morocco to participate in an archaeological excavation, Brad encourages her to go and pursue her professional goal.

hicham hajji

Unfortunately, her dream quickly turns into a nightmare soon after she arrives in the North African country, as she’s kidnapped by a terrorist group when she and her group unintentionally cross the border into Algeria. 

When Brad is informed about his wife’s kidnapping, he is forced back into action for a daring and deadly operation to save the woman he loves.

Since the film’s release, it has received a warm reception from audiences and critics alike, with Best Feature at the Manhattanhenge Independent Film Festival and recently netting two Montreal Independent Film Festival Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Andy Garcia) and Best Thriller. Despite this debut success, Hicham is not resting on his laurels.

hicham hajji

He and H FiLMS have a plethora of projects in the works, including God is a DJ, a comedy that explores the lives of a diverse range of individuals who must manage the expectations of their families, their religion, and communities and the contradictory things they have to do to achieve their dreams.

Written by Hicham, God is a DJ is the story of a young, fatherless Jew and a Moroccan Imam who team up to form the least likely masked DJ duo. Together, they overcome their mutual suspicion of each other to take on the Electronic Music club circuit. 

With a minority-driven cast, Hicham wants the film “to bring this niche music to the world through the minorities that understand it.”

hicham hajji

Elaborating further, he posits, “The show will be a much-needed reminder of happier times before the pandemic, a show that will unite the diverse world thanks to electronic music, and it is about diverse people finding happiness and fulfillment regardless of their cultural identity. . .

Music reveals where you come from, but it’s the beat that unites us all!” Multifaceted and industrious, it is safe to say Hicham Hajji’s talent and ambition will turn him into a household name sooner rather than later.

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