Hakim Belabbes "Little Money, Much Will in Creativity"

Hakim Belabbes is an award winning Moroccan American independent flmmaker. His film Sweat Rain was premiered at IFFR. Hakim created The Sahara Lab Initiative which he currently runs with partners Don Smith and Hammadi Gueroum.  


Hakim Belabbes earned a Bachelor of Arts in American and African literature in 1983 from Mohamed V University in Rabat, Morocco, and a graduate degree in film and video from Columbia College in Chicago, where he now teaches film direction and production.

I grew up in a small town where my father owned the only movie theater that existed there at the time. Now it's closed and the building is falling apart.That movie theater was the center of my childhood where I discovered what cinema was. I grew up watching everything there, from Hollywood films toBollywood flicks, French and Egyptian cinemas, and the great works of Satyajit Ray and Federico Fellini.

Hakim Belabbes  

After the finishing the school, Hakim has stayed to live in Chicago and started his career as a director of independent feature and documentary films. His first productions were documentaries, A Nest in the Heat (1992), A Shepherd and a Rifle (1998). He then turned two experimental short films, Whispers in 2001 and Tell the Water in 2002. The same year, he signs his first feature film, Three Angels with Broken Wings. He goes on with Threads (2003), then in 2006 Why O´Sea?. Followed by a documentary film These Hands, which he wrote, produced and produced in 2008.

In 2009 he finished Fragments, a deeply personal portrait of his family, taking the most intimate, key moments in their lives. In different chapters, Hakim Belabbes blends images, footage and conversations, ranging from the oldest to the youngest members of his family. "Because the film was made over a long period of time and because it was a labor of love that didn't quiet involve productions companies, government or private funding, etc... It was kind of easy to own up to the project and take the time to structure it, and make it into something that could stand on its own. I had my own cameras, my own editing equipment. This project reaffirmed the idea for me that it is very possible to make films on a shoestring budget and get them out there where people can appreciate them. Distribution is still a very hard process. But that is also because my focus is on starting a new film every time I finish one. So I don't really focus of distribution as I should", said Hakim, 



In 2011 he finished feature Boiling Dreams, followed Defining Love: A Failed Attempt (2012) and documentary film Weight of the Shadow (2015).

His latest film Sweat Rain (2017) - a both empathic and poetic drama set in the Moroccan countryside was premiered during International Rotterdam Film Festival. "A few years ago, I met an old small farmer in my hometown, which has always been considered as part of what is referred to as “The Useless Morocco”. The man told me how he had lost his small plot of land because he could not pay the loan he owed to a “Crédit Agricole” bank. His family had been dispossessed, and he found himself homeless, hospitalized, and possessing nothing more than the “Djellaba” (gown) he was wearing at the time. I knew I had to tell the story of this man, or what might have been like to walk in his shoes. He was surely one of the many peasants who are caught between the pressure of debts owed to financial institutions, and the hope for “divine” rainfall. But when drought strikes, disaster usually follows. The film does not seek to resolve conflicts in the traditional sense of any narrative structure. It rather raises questions about the difficult decisions that haunt ordinary human beings in their daily lives,"said Hakim Belabbes.

He also restructured and ran The Film Education and Grants Department at the Doha Film Institute, and created The Qumra Film Festival Concept for the same Institute.

Hakim created The Sahara Lab Initiative which he currently runs with partners Don Smith and Hammadi Gueroum. After identifying interested and committed emerging film and media makers, Sahara Lab provides an immersive set of workshops to develop stories for screens that are accessible to audiences both within Morocco and a larger international viewership. Makers are encouraged to develop stories that engage audiences to explore further issues of identity and culture that celebrates a vibrant people.


Sweat Rain (2017)
Weight of The Shadow (2015)
Defining Love: A Failed Attempt (2012)
Boiling Dreams (2011)
Fragments (2009)
These Hands... (2008)
Why O’ Sea? (2006)
Threads (2003)
A Nest in the Heat (1992)