The film premiered at this year’s Sundance film festival, and was recently acquired for distribution by Egypt’s Film Clinic, as headed by producer Mohamed Hefzy. “Animalia” is expected to screen at more festivals around the world before a wide release.
Astonishingly, this is the French-Moroccan filmmaker’s debut feature film. Her first short film, “So What If the Goats Die,” won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize in 2020 before winning a César award for Best Short Film in 2021. Sofia Alaoui describes “Animalia” as “a human odyssey. An ode to nature and the question of the place of the human in this complex world.” The idea came to her when she returned to Morocco after spending years abroad, when Alaoui was confronted with the dogma of religion and humanity’s obsession with money as a means to reach happiness. Coming face to face with an ideology that tries to fit you into a mold would alienate anyone, like an outsider visiting an unrecognizable home from far beyond. To say this film resonated deeply resonated with me on a spiritual level would be an understatement.
We are all born into a society where a set of principles laid down by an authority is blindly and undisputedly taken as fact. Sometimes these principles—legal, religious, or cultural—create social barriers that separate us from one another instead of bringing us closer together. “Animalia” is about the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. It challenges the notion that women should conform to a set of rules in order to fit in or be perceived as good, and it defies the idea that men have a certain role to fulfill to be accepted in society. “Animalia” shows us that no matter how much society categorizes us through social stratification, be it based on wealth, income, sexuality, beliefs, or otherwise, at the end of the day, we are all cut from the same cloth. It subtly builds up to the idea that all living things, human and nonhuman, are connected to the cosmos.
The film is filled with these philosophical musings about time and our place in the universe without ever spoon-feeding us any answers. It merely questions. “Animalia” revolves around Itto (Oumaïma Barid), a pregnant woman who finds herself alone after her husband leaves on a business trip. During his absence, the presence of a supernatural entity or higher being disrupts society as a whole. The whole country descends into chaos. The masses flock toward places of worship, desperately trying to find solace and peace. And as the world is confronted with the reality that we are not alone, Itto embarks on an existential journey that makes her question the indoctrinated narrative surrounding her since birth.