The city of Ouarzazate or Warzazat, nicknamed The door of the desert, is abuzz with activity as filming of the Moroccan movie musical Jason and the Arganauts will begin any day now. Warzazat is no stranger to Hollywoood style productions as the Ouarzazate area is a noted film-making location with Morocco’s biggest studios inviting many international companies to work here. Films such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Hanna (2011), were all shot on location in Warzazat, as was part of the TV series Game of Thrones.
The modern musical is based on the 1963 cult classic Jason and Argonauts, the 1963 Anglo-American fantasy film distributed by Columbia Pictures based on Greek mythology, produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Don Chaffey. While the 1963 film starred Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Honor Blackman, and Gary Raymond the 2018 Morrocan remake will feature contemperary Morrocan superstars Morjana Alaoui, Samira Said, and Omar Berdouni. In a nod to the 1963 film which was made in collaboration with stop motion animation master Ray Harryhausen and was known for its various fantasy creatures, notably the iconic fight scene featuring multiple skeleton warriors, the modern musical remake will also feature stop motion animation in addition to cutting edge CGI effects.
Producer Jamel Debbouze had this to say about the film at a star studded gala this past weekend “Indeed the film is a tribute to Jason and Argonauts and the plot is loosely based on the original, however their are several key differences. For example, in the original the ship is called the Argo in honor of its builder Argus and thus its crew referred to as Argonauts, in the remake the ship is called the Arga in honor of the argan oil fruit tree whose wood was used to build the mighty ship. The crew are called Arganauts because of this and because of their heavy and frequent use of argan oil for beauty and personal care. In fact the Arganauts are well known throughout the ancient world (of the film) for their flowing, voluptuous, shiny, and non-greasy hair. To take just one other example, in the original Jason and the crew of the Argo sail off in search of the golden fleece which is the fleece of the gold-haired winged ram, which was held in Colchis, in the remake Jason and the crew of the Arga sail off in search of the silver fleece which is the fleece of the Morrocan tree goat which is held in (Morrocon city of) Marrakesh.”
The music for the movie musical is set to be produced by the French DJ of Morrocan origin, veteran hip hop/rap DJ Anouar Hajou, better known as DJ Cut Killer or simply Cut Killer. He brings a versatile repertoire of hip hop and rap styles and enjoys international fame having mixed in United States of America through invitations by DJ Big Dawg Pitbulls of Funkmaster Flex and Shadyville DJ’s of rapper 50 Cent. For more than fifteen years, he has been one of the most emblematic DJs in French hip hop. Mr. Hajoui said the following about his role in the production of the movie “Of course I am honored to be able to participate in this historic moment for the Moroccan people and I am a huge fan of Bernard Hermann the producer of the original score for (Jason and the) Argonauts, so when Jamel told me about the project and asked if I would participate of course I said yes. The score will be essentially a modern hip hop/drum & bass style remix of the original Hermann score and I was able to recruit some of the biggest names in French DJing and drum and bass to lend a hand and contribute some original mixes including my good friend Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow) and young D&B up and comers Klax.”
The musical remake is said to feature the argan oil fruit tree and argan oil throughout. It is the focus of both the plot and all of the reportedly 22 musical numbers that are said to be a part of the close to 4 hour film. Whether or not the moviegoing public has this big of an appetite for argan oil remains to be seen but for Morroco and the international community it is yet another indication of the importance of the beauty and personal care oil to its economy and culture.
Author’s note: 2.5 hours of research was spent on this article. If that doesn’t convince you of the seriousness of my dedication to argan oil I ‘m not sure what will. And still I have only scratched the surface…..