• Interviews

Sofia Aloui Wins Notice with Her Movie “Animalia” at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

After receiving the Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Dramatic competition, Sofia Aloui is now making waves in the Karlovy Vary Film Festival with her first feature film Animalia. Born in Casablanca to a Moroccan father and a French mother, Aluoi, now in her early thirties, is starting to make a promising name for herself in cinema.

Animalia tells the story of a young woman, Itto, who sees the home she shares with her wealthy in-laws in the heart of the Atlas mountains invaded by aliens. As a young woman from a modest rural background slowly adapting to the Moroccan upper-middle-class ways of her husband’s family, Itto finds herself separated from her husband and new family by the supernatural event. Alone, pregnant and looking for her way back, she finally finds emancipation.


Aloui agreed to an interview over Zoom.

How did filmmaking come into your life?

In a very organic way. I was born in Morocco. At the age of five, I moved to China due to my father’s work. My siblings are a lot older than me, so I spent a lot of time by myself. The camera was the way I communicated with the world. It allowed me to be less shy. I was so curious. When, at age eleven, I came back to Morocco and I had friends over, I used to make movies with them at the house. That’s how I had fun. So, it was a very natural process. Both China and Morocco don’t expose you to auteur cinema. The movies I had access to growing up were only the big blockbusters and franchises. There was never a “aha!” moment for me. I guess I just grew up with the camera next to me. That propelled me to move to Paris and study cinema.

You started your directing career by releasing some successful shorts. How did the idea of Animalia, your first full-length feature, come about?

When I came back to Morocco, after having lived in Paris for a while, I felt the need to question the society I was in. I didn’t feel I fit. Why did I have to act a certain way just because I am a Muslim and a woman? I felt the need to reflect on this. I felt like using the supernatural element would be an interesting way to go about it. After having been for some time alone in Greenland, I realized that when we are in really remote places, the connection to the universe is astounding and can reveal many answers. Hence, the alien element in the movie. I wanted to use the supernatural in a naturalistic way.


How did you feel about premiering this movie at Sundance?

I was very happy about it. I felt relieved Animalia would be premiering in a safe place. I couldn’t attend the festival this year, because I had just given birth. I had a short at that festival before that also won a Prize. I feel it’s the place I get the encouragement to go forward with my ideas.

What’s next for you?

I am now developing an Arabic TV show called  Let the Earth Burn with a Scandinavian writer. It’s a detective story set in the Atlas mountains. I want to delve into this format next, because I would be interested in directing some American TV shows like True Detective. I am also producing two other movies. I want to continue to develop work in the scope of the thematic I am already working on, the supernatural. It’s a universal theme.

Animalia stars Mehdi Dehbi, Fouad Oughaou, Souad Khouyi and newcomer Oumaïma Barid, and is produced by France’s Wrong Films with Moroccan production outfits SRAB Films, Jianga Films and Dounia productions.

Sofia Aloui lives in Rabat, where she runs her production company, Jiango Films.