Toni Serra / Abu Ali

Intense silences, olive trees shaken by a wind that invites us to meditate, to contemplate first and then go through all and each of the labyrinths that Seffar opens up before our eyes. Abdelfettah Seffar is a traditional artisan, who lived in London for many years and one day decided to return to Fez, his birthplace. In this video, made in 2004, Toni Serra interviews Seffar and is so accurate in each of his questions, that he manages to bring us closer to a city, Fez, through the voice and the body of someone who loves this city and who, after having known other worlds, comes back to it in search of himself.

The video begins by showing us one side of Fez (the face of fez), the sound of the wind fills the screen, we see it shake the branches of an olive tree. A woman, in her house, looks out from the window onto the street. The view of the outside allows us to contemplate life and its unfolding. The camera gets lost in the darkness as it passes through a neverending alleyway, one of the many that make up and define this mysterious Moroccan city. The camera manages to find the light and continues ahead, right along the wall, so close to the wall in fact that we can almost feel it besides us, showing us the way towards some as yet uncertain place. “If a child is lost there, she won’t know how to find her way back. The centre of Fez in a labyrinth”, we hear in the video. And no doubt, when we look at these images, we understand that this is a fact.

“Fez is a veiled city” - says Seffar on one occasion -, “there is another city within this city, a dreamt city”. Once, when he was still a child, he dreamt these words. In the same recording he adds with serene voice: “I still don’t know where this other city is, I have not found it yet, I am still looking for it”.

Listening to Seffar during the length of this video, together with the specific visual context that Serra has been able to create to accompany his words, we quickly seem to realise that in order to see something of Fez, in order to be able to come in contact with some of its secrets, we have to explore and descend to its depths, and find, there, another form of life, and with this, beauty. The sky in Fez is under the surface. “Reality is that which you manage to interpret. For me Fez is a metaphor”, add Seffar, and indeed, nothing in this video is given explicitly, everything must be discovered gradually.

Seffar speaks about his experience in the West as well, about his time in London, the English capital: “I didn’t feel freer in the modern world. I only felt free to lose myself”.

We are witness to the look at the world of an artisan who, when faced with the option to create a new life for himself in a different and faraway land (London, in this case), or to return to his birthplace, Fez, and continue to look for that other life where one can find oneself, he chooses the latter and doesn’t think twice about it. And there we see him, sitting down in front of Serra’s camera, surrounded by the walls of his new house which is still under construction, with a look of determination on his face: “those who choose the modern life loose themselves”.

A new city awaits him hidden inside Fez. Seffar is an artisan. Surely he will be able to find it.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Seffar
  • Direction: Toni Serra / Abu Ali
  • Production: Me Pierdo Productions. 2004.
  • Duration: 00:11:50
  • Languages: English
  • Subtitles: French - Spanish
  • Original format: Mini DV
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright