Monteur Armand Jayet à l’Institut Français de Fès

En partenariat avec l’Institut Français de Fès, Armand Jayet rejoindra cet été l’équipe “Hidden Waters” dans le cadre d’un résidence artistique au Dar Batha mise à disposition des jeunes talents par l’IF. Jayet passera trois semaines sur place dans la médina de Fès en charge du montage de la première version du film documentaire Hidden Waters. Monteur de vocation, cinéphile depuis sa naissance, Jayet  apportera tout son talent et son expérience, son “timing” extraordinaire, et un regard précieux sur le projet et la réalisation de Hidden Waters ;  Une plongée dans l’effervescence fassi, un bain dans  la lumière et l’esthétique de la vieille ville de Fès.

Nous remercions Philippe Laleu et Brahim Zarkani de l’Institut Français de Fès pour cette oportunité et pour tous ce qu’ils portent au projet.

Editor Armand Jayet at the French Institute of Fez

In partnership with the French Institute of Fez, film editor Armand Jayet will be joinging the Hidden Waters team this summer. He will spend three weeks on location in Fez to edit the first version of the film thanks to an artist residency at the Dar Batha offered by the FI Fez. Editor by vocation, cinephile since birth, Jayet will bring his experience, his extraodinary sense of timing, and a reflected look to the film – all while taking in the light and aesthetic of the old city of Fez.

Special thanks to Philippe Laleu and Brahim Zarkani from the French Institute of Fez for this opporunity and their continued support of the project.

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Ca tourne! Premiers tournages à Fès

Depuis Septembre on attends les autorisations nécessaires pour commencer les tournages, et hier on les a eu. On commence avec les espaces publiques et les alentours de la médina: le jardin du Djnan Sbil et les oueds qui contribuent aux ressources d’eau de la plus magnifique ville médiéval de l’Afrique.

On cherche toujours quelques intervenants professionnels (dans les métiers de l’eau et de l’urbanisme) pour le film et des stagiaires pour aider avec les grands tournages qui auront lieu en Mars.


Since September we’ve been waiting for the proper authorizations from the Moroccan authorities to start filming, and yesterday VOILA! We’ll be starting with public spaces and the surrounding areas of the medina: the Djnan Sbil gardens, and the rivers contributing to Fez’s water supply.

We’re still looking for interviewees (preferrably professionals in water and urban planning), and interns to help with some of the larger shoots in March.

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Zawiya d’Ifrane: In search of Morocco’s freshest waters

As part of the film, I will be taking a look at the geography of the regions surrounding Fez. This is not only to contextualize Fez’s waters geologically, but to take a look at some smaller-scale water systems as well as rural installations providing for shepherds and small agricultural settlements.

With the help of Joe and Steven (pictured above), two Peace Corps. volunteers specializing in sustainable development and environmental science, I had the opporunity to spend three days hiking and camping in the hills and cedar forests surrounding the village of Zawiya d’Ifrane. Situated beneath a massive plateau, the village is sustained by the waterfalls cascading of the sheer rock face of said plateau. Further upstream (a long and strenuous hike away), the hills are covered in pines planted by the French and the native oaks until at an even higher altitude, one reaches the cedar forests – one of Morocco’s most beautiful and treasured natural resources.

While on the hike, Steven took us to a well capped by the French, he thinks, where the freshest and coldest water I’ve ever tasted gushes freely from beneath a massive rock. This well was not only our lifeblood during the hike, but it is vital to shepherds and a nearby (abandoned) cottage (also built by the French according to Steven).

We did manage to shoot some footage (I didn’t hike up 1700 ft. of rocky muddy terrain with a massive tripod on back for nothing!) on the hike, however, it will be exciting to go back to Zawiya to take a closer look at local use of these wells and rivers and their affect on life in the village. Today, Fez may have very little in common with Zawiya d’Ifrane, however they have similar, if anachronistic origins. At one time Fez was nothing more than a settlement for herders, lightly built up, and heavily reliant on the fresh water coursing down its hills from sources higher up. Shooting in Zawiya d’Ifrane will allow us to try and go back in time to discover how water was used before Fez was founded as the now-saintly city of Moulay Idriss II.

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Jardin Djnan Sbil – River, meet Fez

The Jardin Djnan Sbil is a public park next to the royal palace that has long been a favorite place for Fassi of all walks of life to spend some down-time and get some air – even though it is closed in the evening and has until recently been closed for work. It boasts lovely tiled fountains and green walkways where school kids hang out between class, where families sit and picnic, and strollers contemplate.

However, what I had come to see was further back. Past the parks central plaza is an enormous basin where waters collected from the river are distributed into channels heading for different parts of the medina. Some of the open-air channels are visibly old, dating back to the Sa’adian period of Fez’s 1200 year history according to one park worker. Though I’m not sure of this advice, it is interesting to not that in some cases the old channels were simply repaired and modern floodgates were added to control the flow of waters. In other cases, new channels were built, and what was once the bed of a small branch of the river lies empty and dry nearby.

From Tareq Madani’s work on the historical water system of Fez, Djnan Sbil is not only an access point to the river, but it boasts a spring (‘Ain) that also feeds into the upper medina’s water supply. From here clean water once flowed to the water distribution mechanism at Boujloud to be sent flowing downhill – turning water wheels, feeding fountains and homes, and irrigating nearby agricultural lands.

This park is important not only as a starting place in investigating the old water system, but as an example of how it has been modified over the years. Though it functions, however, doesn’t mean the water flowing through this system is as clean and mineral-rich as it once was. The park worker told me that it was not drinkable at all, but that at some point it gets treated. In the film, the drinkability of the water flowing through the old system will be analyzed alongside the switch from free access to paying access to Fez’s heritage waters.

UPDATE: New Promo, New Assistant Producer, Still no Camera

By now our kickstarter is looking quite sad. However, perhaps a new video in HD will make the art world out there want to give us money. We shot it on a DSLR too! Yeah… that will get em on our side… Special thanks to Michael Grieve from Agence Vu for letting me use his camera, and to Omar Chennafi for filming the oh-so-stylish walking shots of me in my neighborhood. Felt a bit “Vanguard-esque” when I was editing them… anyways, on to the video:

In other news, Joe Hollowell, a Peace Corps. worker and a sustainable development pro, has offered his hand in the research and production of the film. Joe will be joining me in Fez in the coming weeks, when we will start making our strategy for getting interviews, access to restricted areas, and all kinds of other cool filmmaker things.

Last for the day, but not least, my camcorder has once again failed to make it through APO mail. Third time is a charm inshallah.

All for now. Remember that time to help fund our production is ticking away.

Best from Fez


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The Story of Aïsha Kandisha

Whilst having coffee the other day with the great Sandy McCutcheon – journalist, author of many a book, and curator of The View from Fez – and seeking his advice on the subject of water in the Fez médina, I was recounted one of the most bizarre and wonderful stories I’ve ever heard – the story of Aïsha Kandisha, whose full name most Moroccans hesitate to utter.

A Jinn (see Sir Richard Burtons translation of Arabian Nights or alf laïla wa laïla to encounter some examples from further East) – that is to say a sort of a mystic creature – Aïsha Kandisha is said to dwell underground in the waters of places like Fez or nearby Sidi Ali, where every year a sufi ritual takes place calling upon her and where people go to be cleansed by the natural waters of the spring. Appearing only to the majaneen, or those possesed by a Jinn – where we get the word for “crazy” in some dialects of Arabic, Egyptian for instance – she is said to be sixteen feet tall and have the legs of a camel. The sound of chains dragging on the ground follows her wherever she goes. She appears either as a young topless woman or an old hag and is said to have ‘married’ (possesed) some 30,000 men who all take her directives – wearing only certan colors, not cutting their hair or nails, and sometimes not washing. Some of these men, having visited Sidi Ali and performed the ritual cleansing and underwear toss (I can’t give this one away yet), are instantly released from their madness.

For those not possesed, much more quotidien Aïsha Kandisha stories persist. Popular mythology attests that if you pour boiling water down the drain, Lalla Aïsha will come up and ‘get you,’ so to speak.

With this development, we hope to explore the ways in which water is wrapped in urban legend, storytelling, and mystical practice as we explore the more ‘concrete’ aspects of Fez’s history with water. Perhaps we can get Sandy on camera next to a campfire telling the story — or better yet, maybe I’ll meet Aïsha Kandisha herself as I try to film in Fez’s subterranean water channels.

Let’s hope she lets me get away with it.

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We do not make this film in vain…

When Moulay Idriss founded Fez in 798, he famously stated that he “does not build this city in vain, but for the glorification of God.” After a timely arrival in Fez for pre-production research – applying for numerous permits and connecting with my new neighbors – I found this quote fitting for the production of “les eaux cachées.” It is a bit of local wisdom to guide our production, to make a promise to the people of Fez who will surely be more important to the film than our crew.

So far, we’ve come across a few contacts who will be helpful in the pre-production, including the man responsable for Fez’s current water system overhaul. Talks with the local university’s professor of documentary film for masters students as well as the Fondation Esprit de Fes are in the works. For the moment, however, walking the streets of Fez at night, hearing water running below a labyrinthe of streets, as well as dealing with the water in the house I’m renting with are good introductions.

This blog will follow our progress, offer glimpses into the research and production behind the film, and hopefully follow its successful entry into the documentarosphere, inshallah.

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