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Interview – Mario Morin – ‘Sacred Hair’ – A Short Film


Posted November 9, 2018 by

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Interview – Mario Morin – ‘Sacred Hair’ – A Short Film

Director Mario Morin’s Sacred Hair shares the story of a young boy’s innocent curiosity lifting him beyond the insidious confines of prejudice and showing how the essence of two diametrically opposed individuals are the same. This wonderful film took home the Best Live Action Oscar-qualifying award at the Cleveland International Film Festival, as well as many more high profile film awards around the world and has been selected for over twenty film festivals.

A fortuitous life-changing encounter between a young sick boy and a Muslim woman in a Montreal park.

Sacred Hair is Canadian Director Mario Morin’s directorial debut, a film that he also penned. Having trained with among others, one of  Liam Neeson’s acting coaches Tom Todoroff, Morin has appeared in over 50 productions of TV, Film and Theatre. This matalented actor has also worked behind the camera with household names including George Clooney on the set of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Director Yves Simoneau on Free Money, and alongside Wajdi Mouawad, Director of Littoral, best known for writing the highly acclaimed film Incendies. Mario is currently writing and developing several new projects: his second short, a feature and a TV series.

The film’s young star Matt Hébert has been acting since the tender age of 7. As well as starring in the TV series L’Heure Bleue, he is currently on the list of Top 10 Child-Actors to watch in Quebec. Hébert’s co-star Najat Elwafy was born in Morocco and has appeared in over 50 films, television series and plays. Her first significant role came in Les Bandits winning her critical and commercial recognition. She was named the best actress in a leading role for Grande Villa, directed by Latif Lahlou.

Just some of the film’s wins include the Audience Award and the Jury Special Selection Award at Providence Children’s Film Festival and the Shibuya Diversity Award at Shorts Shorts Film Festival in Japan.

Mario Morin - 'Sacred Hair'


To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘Sacred Hair’?

Sacred Hair is the story of a young boy whose innocent curiosity allows him to circumvent the insidious grasp of prejudice and shows how the essence of two diametrically opposed individuals is the same. I wanted to talk about differences from the perspective of where they could meet, using a collective symbol that everyone could relate to. I hope people who watch Sacred Hair come out recognizing that they gain by overcoming their own prejudices and biases.

How did you get involved with the film? Where did the idea come from?

The media was flooded with overly dramatic and inflammatory coverage of the hijab, to the point that I found it was being blown way out of proportion and starting to condemn individuals and questioning their entire value sets. That started me thinking about how I could use the pretext of hair to tell the story of the instant assumptions and judgements we make of others without really knowing them.

Tell us about the cast, who is starring?

Co-star Matt Hébert, who started acting at the age of 7, is currently on the Top 10 list of Child-Actors to watch in Quebec. Matt was a dream to work with. He has an incredible worldly understanding for such a tender age. He’s fueled by a natural curiosity that’s coupled with a contagious enthusiasm and humour.  I was impressed from the get-go. Moroccan born Co-star Najat Elwafy has appeared in over 50 films, tv series and plays; her first significant role in Les Bandits winning her critical and commercial recognition. First off, it was a miracle just to find her. While brooding over the troubling dilemma of a lack of Arab looking actresses in Montreal to an old agent acquaintance that I ran into, he said he knew the perfect person for me – and he was right.  With her warm, maternal appearance, maturity and kindness, Najat fell seamlessly into the role of the Muslim woman.  She has a wonderful softness and honesty about her, a pureness that makes you immediately comfortable.  Generous with her time, she was a great resource when rewriting lines, and she took direction with class and professionalism even when unsure where I was leading her, for instance in the scene where she gets angry. In the role of Matt’s mother, on top of having the same facial traits as Matt, I found Mara Joly to be quick and sharp. She grasped and delivered very fast what I wanted, saving the production a lot of time. Adam Lapointe, who was present for the second audition, had such a pronounced complicity with Matt that I decided to add another character to the mix. Less experienced and a bit more reserved in nature, Adam came to set well prepared and was also a charm to work with. Rounding out the smaller supporting roles was a top notch cast including Chadi Alhelou (role of Najat’s husband) and Sam Jamous (role of Najat’s brother) both of whom I immediately cast without auditions, having worked previously with them during one of my acting masterclasses. They were extremely patient and generous, and both gave perfect performances; and finally Alexandre L. Thibault, whose unruly hair blessed the script with well-timed comedic relief and who graciously lent his photography skills to the production in order to document the shoot & Jonah Engel who provided the initial speculative questioning from Matt’s character, as the passing Hassidic Jew, who I found through the credits of the renowned Montreal film Felix and Meira who graciously accepted to fill the role even though he was mourning the loss of a close family member.

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

My influences don’t really stem so much from the usual industry specifics. They come more from the desire to treat topics that are anchored in reality and ideally about both timeless and universal themes. I like to make the camera invisible and to make the process and progress seem seamless so that the audience remains immersed in the story. I think this stems from the fact that I began observing people at a very young age – I remember my father bringing me to my first film at the cinema, Cool Hand Luke, and I was in awe of the grandeur of the space. I kept peeking back at the audience to see them reacting to what they saw on the big screen. It was the beginning of my interest in the impact that stories can have on people.

When and where can we expect to see ‘Sacred Hair’?

We’ve been shown in over twenty festivals worldwide thus far, and received over a dozen awards to date. The next few competitions in which Sacred Hair will be screened are at the Pittsburgh Short Film Festival on November 16th; the Rome Independent Film Festival on November 21st; and the All Lights India International Film Festival on December 1st.

What advice would you give any up-and-coming filmmakers, trying to crack the industry?

Develop your passion for telling and listening to stories in all their shapes and forms. Know inside and out the basics of what makes a good story. Know what types of stories you’re passionate about telling, and then compulsively write them…Then pick one or two that you love and invite as many of the people you respect to read the story, incorporating the relevant constructive feedback.  We can become overly anxious to shoot, but I think it’s best to have a highly compelling story on paper first…then when you do film it, you will be on the right track to getting a good result.

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films or projects in production?

Several projects are in progress right now including another short film.  But given the unpredictable nature of film financing in Canada making nothing a sure bet, it’s a little bit early to share details of these projects that are still in initial developmental stages.


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