dar nsa

Dar Nsa, aired on Al Aoula during the month of Ramadan, has become a true phenomenon, in addition to reaching the top of the ratings. A series that is both light-hearted and critical, brilliantly directed and co-written by actress and director Samia Akariou, Nora Skalli, and Jawad Lahlou. Shoelifer had a lengthy conversation with this successful artist, disarmingly fresh and down-to-earth!

 Ten million. That’s the number of viewers the series Dar Nsa, aired in prime time on Al Aoula during Ramadan, managed to gather. It was a record-breaking success, which is also confirmed on YouTube, as Dar Nsa episodes have  between 1.2 and 3.4 million views.

Behind this success, is a woman and a powerhouse team. The series was directed by actress and director Samia Akariou. She co-wrote the script with actress and screenwriter Nora Skalli, her BFF (best friend forever) and partner in crime, as well as screenwriter Jawad Lahlou. The whole production was produced by Ali n’ Productions, founded by Nabil Ayouch and led by Amine Benjelloun. Dar Nsa features a predominantly female and ultra-popular cast: Meryem Zaïmi, Fatima Zahra Qanboua, Ibtissam Laaroussi. And don’t forget,  on the male side, the illustrious Driss Roukhe, Yassine Ajjaham, and Rabii Skalli.

For those who might have missed the phenomenon, Dar Nsa is first and foremost Tangier, the life of the medina, and the Chamali accent. But above all, it’s about the daily life of a family home where the mistress of the house, Lalla Amina, hosts (in addition to her own family) a friend and a runaway girl. While everyone seems to be living happily ever after,the characters hide dark secrets, which will eventually surface and cause multiple twists and turns.

 The editorial team won’t reveal more to avoid spoiling the pleasure for you. Nevertheless, know that the strength of Dar Nsa lies in its ability to address societal issues still taboo in Morocco, such as drug trafficking, incest, or children born out of wedlock. It shows women who aspire to be masters of their destinies, despite the obstacles. And it does all this without judgment, moralism, or pity, with depth and lightness — a delicate yet successful gamble.Back in her hometown of Chefchaouen to enjoy a well-deserved family rest, the warm and ultra-spontaneous Samia Akariou took the time to answer Shoelifer’s questions.

Dar Nsa was the number one Ramadan series in Morocco. What are the secrets behind such a popular success?

 The recipe for success is never fully known. Of course, we grasp it and try to do our best, but nothing is ever guaranteed. You know, the timing of Ramadan is quite special. The task is complex because you have to succeed in gathering the whole family in front of the television screen during prime time. The equation is a mix of soap opera, telenovela, without neglecting substance or overcomplicating things too much! 

In the case of Dar Nsa, the format was also challenging and unprecedented. The series consists of thirty episodes, each lasting 52 minutes, which is not common elsewhere. Generally, the format of 42 minutes is favored, and multiple seasons are planned. 52 minutes require a lot of writing work, not to mention the filming (laughs). Honestly, what really matters above all else  is the strength of the script, which Nora Skalli, Jawad Lahlou, and myself worked on extensively.

For our part, we have made it a habit to address strong social themes and create content that breaks certain taboos. Dar Nsa isn’t just about romance and betrayal stories. I believe our greatest accomplishment  is  managing to reach all social classes. We hoped for success, but we were really pleasantly surprised it was such a hit! 

The series Dar Nsa, according to Shoelifer, is a feminine enclave, halfway between the work of playwright Federico Garcia Lorca and “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. What is your opinion, as the director? 

That’s a pretty good summary (laughs)! For Dar Nsa, I was inspired by quite a few things, indeed. Obviously, the influence of Garcia Lorca comes to mind first. With the theater troupe Takoun, I previously staged the play “Bnat Lalla Mennana” in 2005, which later became a television series, entirely adapted from Garcia Lorca’s play, “La Casa de Bernarda Alba”. 

It’s the story of a very conservative family in Northern Morocco, where the mother, who has become the head of the family, rules her daughters with an iron fist. The play and the series were hugely successful and even opened  the Moroccan audience to local productions. Previously, they favored Egyptian, Turkish, and Mexican series. It was thanks to this success that national productions flourished.

I was also influenced by “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty and David E. Kelley, a series whose starting point is the female sisterhood. In Dar Nsa, this sisterhood is also a guiding thread. I was also inspired by the Mexican director Manolo Caro; I really like his world.

What messages did you particularly want to convey in Dar Nsa?

I first wanted to talk about incest, pedophilia and the rape of little girls. Evils that eat away at a lot of families, but remain taboo. In Dar Nsa, we tell the story of a young girl raped by her stepfather. Even though we know that in reality, boys have also experienced the same thing. We had to talk about it. It had never been approached in this way, even though we hear a lot of news stories on these subjects!

Yet we feel we cannot  expose it, under the pretext of not  tearing the family apart. As I speak to you, a friend who belongs to the security corps called me to thank me for talking about it on television. This is a reality that we must not ignore. Freedom of speech was essential for all those who supported Dar Nsa.

We also discussed the subject of single mothers. In the series, one of the characters is a young woman who is pregnant out of wedlock, who does not want to have an abortion or get married. All she wants is to keep her baby, to take responsibility for her pregnancy. It is only with the aim of offering a better future to her child, in particular a legal existence and an identity, that she chooses to marry the father. But in reality, she doesn’t want to live with this guy who abandoned her with this problem in the first place. . And then we also talked about drug trafficking, which takes place even in front of high schools.

Dar Nsa seems to have found a delicate balance between addressing taboos without shocking the audience. What is your secret?

That’s a good question!  How do we talk about sensitive issues that are offensive in our  society without provoking violent reactions? Well, let’s be clear, Dar Nsa has stirred up buzz left and right (laughs), because there’s always ‘hchouma’ (shame) and a lot of hypocrisy. We, the writers, have heavily relied on dialogue. Moroccan dialect is incredibly rich for addressing these societal issues. We took it slowly, and then we put certain statements in the mouths of mothers and grandmothers.

Cinema has a certain role in provocation, television does not, because it enters every household. It must be approached delicately. It’s the famous concept of ‘tamaghrabit’ (Moroccan cultural soft power). Above all, it’s about speaking to everyone: the intellectual as well as the one who hasn’t had much schooling or the one who absolutely doesn’t think like you. It’s about finding the right words.

We’re not here to provide solutions. What we want is to unleash conversation and no longer turn a blind eye. After that, everyone is free to think for themselves. In this regard, I commend the Al Aoula channel, which has never censored us. I think we’ve ultimately found a good recipe. Now, we know where to go.

Ultimately, isn’t the success of Dar Nsa proof that public opinion is more open-minded than what politicians would have us believe?

Good question. Well, firstly, there’s a bond of trust between our team and the audience that has developed over the years. We have a certain level of sympathy and credibility in terms of know-how and seriousness. There are very aggressive comments on social media. Sometimes, internet users address us as if we were politicians and decision-makers. Normally, it’s up to them to address certain societal issues and to establish laws to protect our children, for example. We’re simply shining a light on these topics.

 An artist is here to create, ask questions, and disturb. If we’re only here to make people laugh, well, we end up being seen as nothing but clowns. . Now, it must be admitted that there’s a huge gap: our politicians and intellectuals have largely avoided these issues,  out of fear of causing offense or pitting people against each other. However, on the subjects addressed in Dar Nsa, there’s a kind of consensus in the end. For example, the Moudawana, currently undergoing reform, sparks debate but ultimately people know it’s meant to protect, especially our children.

 What do you expect from the revision of the Family Code?

My only answer is to think about the children born out of wedlock, sometimes abandoned, or even thrown away. This issue needs to be addressed! I can’t wait to see the changes that will be made, and especially the laws that will be enforced! I have many friends who are waiting for the new Moudawana to get divorced (laughs). This reform is criticized by reactionaries, who think it’s just a way to allow relationships outside of marriage or to westernize our society, but the real goal is to  protect the family, the child, and women. In the end, when she divorces, it’s the woman who has the responsibility for her children and who must provide for their needs.

Dar Nsa addresses incest and sexual violence. Abroad, the film and television industries have been shaken by the #MeToo movement. As an actress and director, have you experienced any aggression or sexist behavior?

 Do you want the truth? I live my life as an artist in Morocco to the fullest. I’ve always fought for my rights and I’ve never positioned myself as a victim. That being said, I don’t blame anyone, and I’m not saying there are no problems.

Now, I’ll confide in you. Initially, I didn’t want to say this, nor do I want to play the victim, and I’m trying to choose my words carefully, but I know we stirred things up with Dar Nsa, especially because we are women behind this project. I’ve never been criticized as much as I have with this series. With my partner, Nora Skalli, we felt harassed, almost like from a lynch mob, , and we couldn’t help but think  it was sexism. 

Our male counterparts, who have directed series before, have never been attacked to this extent. Even before the airing during Ramadan, articles were published to denigrate me, saying that I hadn’t convinced the channel. There were also criticisms that it was just a series by women, about women.


Do you consider yourself a feminist?

I’ve never positioned myself in a dynamic of man versus woman. I grew up with my brothers who have always supported me, both morally, intellectually, and in terms of my personal and artistic freedom. My struggle is for humanity. How can we succeed in living in a modern Moroccan society in the current world? I simply aspire to a society where there is equality and justice, health and education for everyone!

After the success of Dar Nsa, you’re taking a break in your hometown, but do you have any new artistic projects?

Yes! I’ve been working on writing a new series since October. It’s called Charki et Gharbi, and it will be filmed in May, then broadcasted on 2M. And after that, I’ll be preparing for the third season of Bnat Lalla Mennana, in which I have a performance role.

Picture (c) : Samia Akariou

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