A young orphan, Aïcha, is found alone in the forests of central Morocco. Taken and sold from her home in the hills of the Atlas mountains, Aïcha finds herself at the mercy of Abbas, a petty criminal, and his conflicted girlfriend, Nadia. They soon cross paths with Zacaria, an Iraqi-Moroccan writer, who has left everything behind- including a passionate relationship with a teacher, Judith- to follow in the path of and search for his missing brother. The group embarks on a journey that will lead them from Morocco, to Istanbul, across the plains of Kurdistan to Iraq and beyond.
The Narrow Frame of Midnight charts the journeys of several characters as they struggle to find their place in the world; in search of the living and of the dead, of others and of themselves. The paths of these characters intersect at different points in the film and though their destinies eventually diverge, they are connected in profound ways. The arc of each respective journey reflects and informs the circuit of the other journeys. Three of the characters (Aïcha, Zacaria and Judith) are people who are searching; they are explorers who at different points decide to take the leap and embark on a voyage whose end is unknown. The Greeks believed, as writer Jeanette Winterson reminds us, that the hidden life demands invisible ink. And so in a way, the characters with whom we travel in The Narrow Frame of Midnight are people who have decided to discern the hidden story within themselves and to continue to write it at any cost.
In Walter Benjamin’s essay On the Concept of History, written shortly before he fled to Spain in 1940 and committed suicide, he summons up the figure of an Angel. He writes:
There is a painting by Klee called Angelus Novus. An angel is depicted there who looks as though he were about to distance himself from something which he is staring at. His eyes are opened wide, his mouth stands open and his wings are outstretched. The Angel of History must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. That which we call progress, is this storm.
In The Narrow Frame of Midnight, Zacaria’s search for his missing brother and for his past, which takes him from Morocco to Iraq, is in fact, a search for himself. He has awakened from a form of slumber and despite his fears must continue on a voyage that he has forged and that also forges him, a journey that leads him across a devastated landscape. He is a witness to a world in upheaval and flux, a character who, like the others in the film, exists in a liminal space. The film explores, among other things, questions that deal with this state of 'non-belonging', the condition of countless peoples- migrants, refugees, exiles and nomads- all of whom share and inhabit a particular space of displacement and transit that has come to define the 21st century in a profound way. What is this space of being 'in-between' things? What is reflected in the mirror between the West and East? Or the North and South? What occurs on the frontier between memory and history? In the The Narrow Frame of Midnight borders are constantly shifting, things are lost, then re-found and lost again.
The Narrow Frame of Midnight came into being as a script two years after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. In a post-9/11 world, where changes across diverse political landscapes, military interventions and wars in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have been progressing at a dizzying speed, it has never seemed more important to stand still and try to shake free and clear one's vision of the world.
The Narrow Frame of Midnight, in it's most fragmentary and episodic form, is a film that attempts to not only recount a story about resurrecting vision, or as Gilles Deleuze puts it "restoring belief in the world", but is also a sketching out of a certain type of cinematographic map, where lines constantly shift and change, disappear and reappear in correspondence to a geopolitical terrain that is fluid, and that changes because of events, like wars for example. And so the film exists and reflects back onto an ever changing landscape, and in turn it too changes. It is a film that looks to the past, present and future and acts like a magic mirror of sorts.
In a world that is rapidly being re-mapped, where power is restructuring and regrouping, it is becoming increasingly important to also stand at the frontier and be allowed to dream. In The Narrow Frame of Midnight there is perhaps only one character who exists apart from the others, who possesses real strength- it is the young child Aïcha. Her world, that of childhood, stands apart and inviolable, touched by grace. And though she faces the worst brutalities and desolation in the adult world, she remains the most powerful, the most courageous and free of all the characters. She, above all the others, sees. She is the one with the gift of real and untainted sight, despite the hardship and cruelty of the world around her. And her gaze, strong and unflinching, faces forward, to a possible and better world.
The Narrow Frame of Midnight was funded by The Centre Cinématographique Marocain and The Doha Film Institute. It was developed with the support of the British Film Institute, Le Fond Francophone Audiovisuelle du Sud, Hogus Bogus, The Frame and Alwan for the Arts.
It was also supported in part by the Sundance Institute Feature film program and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
TALA HADID (writer/director)
Of Moroccan and Iraqi parentage, Tala Hadid made her first full-length documentary film Sacred Poet on Pier Paolo Pasolini. The author of several short films, she completed Tes Cheveux Noirs Ihsan which was awarded the 2005 Kodak/Cinecolor Prize and received an Academy Award (Oscar). It went on to win several prizes (including best film and best actress award at the Tangiers Film Festival and awards from the Global Film Initiative, the Milos Forman grant, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts). In February of 2006 the film won the Panorama Best short Film Award at the Berlin Film Festival. Hadid’s work has also screened, among other venues, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C, L’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Goteberg Kunsthalle in Sweden, the Goethe Institute/Cairo, the Los Angeles County Museum, Zoom Art Fair/Miami/Basel, la Cinémathèque Française in Paris, the Seville Biennale in Spain, the Jonathan Schorr Gallery NYC and the Photographer’s Gallery in London.
In 2010/2011Hadid worked on an independent project entitled Heterotopia, a series of photographs documenting life a New York City. brothel. In 2012 she was awarded the Peter S Reed Foundation Arts grant in support of her work, most specifically House in the Fields, a documentary film project of rural life in the Atlas mountains in Morocco. In the autumn of 2013, the Fine Art photography publisher Stern published a volume of a selection of Hadid’s photographs as part of its Stern Fotografie Portfolio series of emerging photographers. In September 2015, Hadid's project House in the Fields was selected to screen as a work-in-progress at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival organized by La Biennale di Venezia where it was awarded two prizes.
ALEXANDER BUROV (Director of Photography)
Alexander Burov was born on 2 August 1958 in Leningrad. In 1981 Alexander graduated from the Camera Department at the All- Union Institute for Cinematography (VGIK, Studio of T. Lobova). He has worked on over 40 films, notably for the legendary Russian director Alexander Sokurov, with whom he has been a constant collaborator. His films as cinematographer include among many others: And Nothing More, Evening Sacrifice, Moscow Elegy, Maria and Spiritual Voices. In 1990 and 1992 respectively his films The Second Circle and Stone were listed by Susan Sontag in Art Forum as two of her favorite films of the decade. Burov went on to film The Berlin Film Festival awarded The Italian and award-winning Father and Son and Alexandra, both Cannes Film Festival nominees for the Palme d’Or.
JOELLE HACHE (Editor)
Joelle Hache is one of the leading film editors working in France. She has edited over 40 films including: multiple award- winning Camille Claudel (nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe) with Isabelle Adjani, award-winning The Hairdresser’s Husband, Golden Globe nominated La Fille sur le Pont with Daniel Auteuil, Oscar nominated Urga: close to Eden by Nikita Mikalkhov, Farinelli winner of several prizes including Golden Globe for best foreign film and nomination for an Oscar, Palme d’Or and Oscar nominated Ridicule, as well as many other films. Joelle lives in Paris.
JAMIE MCPHEE (Sound editor)
Jamie McPhee has worked on over 30 films. He has won two BAFTA awards and a Golden Reel Award.
DOMINIQUE LACLOCHE (Production Design)
Dominique Lacloche is an artist who has had numerous exhibitions and publications in several European capitals. Her most recent work was exhibited at the Nuits Blanches in France in 2013 and a solo show at Loo & Lou Gallery in Paris, 2015. She lives in Paris.
ALI CHERKAOUI (Assistant director)
Ali Cherkaoui has worked on several films not only in Morocco and France, but in Bosnia and elsewhere. His films include: Kundun by Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott's Gladiator, Oliver Stone's Alexander, Marock by Leila Marrakchi, Steven Spielberg's Munich, Tomorrow Comes Today by Lang Chen Ming and Circus Columbia by Danis Tanovic.
In February 2001, Ali joined and became an Active Member of the French Association of Assistant Directors (a.f.a.r)
KHADIJA ALAMI Producer/ K FILMS
Khadija Alami is a Moroccan Producer who has been working across all areas of production since the 1980s. Throughout her career she has been committed to developing the film industry in Morocco and in 1989 she launched K Films to providing crew and production services to international productions on the one hand and to foster and develop local talent on the other. Her credits include, Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks, Complicit, Home of the Brave, award-winning Le thé ou l'électricité and The Narrow Frame of Midnight amongst many other documentaries and shorts.
JOSLYN BARNES Producer/LOUVERTURE FILMS
Joslyn Barnes is a writer and producer who together with actor Danny Glover co-founded Louverture Films, a company dedicated to the development and production of films of historical relevance, social purpose, commercial value and artistic integrity. Among the films Barnes has executive produced or produced are the César-nominated BAMAKO, Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner and Oscar nominated TROUBLE THE WATER, the award-winning BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975, the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, Grierson and Peabody winner THE HOUSE I LIVE IN, the Berlinale prize-winning CONCERNING VIOLENCE, and the forthcoming NARROW FRAME OF MIDNIGHT. She associate produced Elia Suleiman's THE TIME THAT REMAINS, and the 2010 Cannes Palme d'Or winner UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. She is currently producing THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING for Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, and SHADOW WORLD for Johan Grimonprez.
CAT VILLIERS Producer/ AUTONOMOUS LIMITED
Cat Villiers has produced, executive produced and co-produced many award winning films. Her first feature film was Milcho Manchevski's BEFORE THE RAIN, winner of the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion and an Academy Award Nomination. Other credits include; Bernard Rose's IVANS XTC with Danny Huston; Golden Globe and Academy Award winner NO MANS LAND, directed by Danis Tanovic; acclaimed Western THE PROPOSITION, written by Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat; Danis Tanovic's CIRKUS COLUMBIA and Hanan Abdalla's award winning documentary IN THE SHADOW OF A MAN. She is currently in post-production on; IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE CITY directed by Tamer El Said, feature documentary THE VOTE directed by Hanan Abdalla and Cressida Trew, a new film by Danis Tanovic and Faruk Sabanovic's feature animation BIRDS LIKE US. Cat is a Trustee, with directors Mike Leigh and Simon Mcburney of the Katrin Cartlidge Foundation, a charitable trust that supports new directorial talent. Recipients of the award include Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre/True Detective), Academy nominated Juanita Wilson (The Door/As if I am not There), Hala Lotfy (Coming Forth by Day), Syrian film makers Orwa Nyrabia and Diana El Jeroudia, andDyana Gaye (Under the Starry Sky)..
DANNY GLOVER Executive producer/LOUVERTURE FILMS
In addition to being one of the most acclaimed actors of our time, with a career spanning 30 years from Places in the Heart, The Color Purple, the Lethal Weapon series and the award-winning To Sleep with Anger, Danny Glover has also produced, executive produced and financed numerous projects for film, television and theatre. Among these are Good Fences, 3 AM, Freedom Song, Get on the Bus, Deadly Voyage, Buffalo Soldiers, The Saint of Fort Washington, To Sleep with Anger, and Mooladé, as well as the series Courage and America's Dream. Since co-founding Louverture Films, Glover has executive or co-produced BAMAKO, AFRICA UNITE, TROUBLE THE WATER, SALT OF THIS SEA, SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION, DUM MAARO DUM, THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MCKINLEY NOLAN, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN, and HIGHWAY. He has associate produced THE TIME THAT REMAINS and the 2010 Cannes Palme d'Or winner UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES. The recipient of countless awards for his humanitarian and advocacy efforts on behalf of economic and social justice causes, Glover is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Amnesty International.
SøREN KLOCH Executive Producer/HOKUS BOGUS
Søren Kloch has worked in the film business for more than thirty years as both director of photography, producer and director. Over the years he has specialized in visual effects and digital workflow and now has his own London-based company, Hokus Bogus, where he is involved in numerous productions as a producer, a consultant or as a post production coordinator.