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Director Halima Ouardiri premieres latest short film The Skates at TIFF

The Concordia film grad is currently working on her debut feature
October 24, 2023
By Richard Burnett, BA 88

A girl and man dressed in winter clothes sit on a bus. The girl wears a grey toque and looks up at the man who wears a black hat. Inès Feghouli and Mani Soleymanlou star in The Skates.

The Skates (Les Patins), a short film by Halima Ouardiri BFA 04, made its world premiere in the Short Cuts program at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September.

A graduate of Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, and one of eight women filmmakers selected for the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television’s Apprenticeship for Women Directors program in 2018, Ouardiri’s films have been screened and celebrated at film festivals around the world. She also won a Crystal Bear award at the Berlinale 2020 for Best Short Film for her documentary Mutts (Clebs, 2019) about a stray-dog refuge in Morocco.

But Ouardiri is especially thrilled that The Skates officially competed at TIFF.

The director made her TIFF debut in 2010 with her first short film, Mokhtar, which screened at more than 100 festivals around the world and won several best director and best film awards.

“To be invited back to TIFF was such a joy!” Ouardiri says. “It’s a great festival, where I like meeting talented filmmakers from around the world.”

A passion for storytelling

Starring Inès Feghouli as Mina, an 11-year-old girl who loves to skate but finds herself trapped between her divorced parents — played by Mani Soleymanlou and Sophie Cadieux — The Skates was inspired by Ouardiri’s own childhood memories of growing up in Geneva.

A woman wears a red and white hat, headphones, and a grey hoodie. She has one arm wrapped around a large, brown dog, and the other holds a microphone. Halima Ouardiri

“I condensed those emotions and memories into a completely fictional story,” Ouardiri explains. “Inès Feghouli is a brilliant actress, very serious, very mature and very easy to work with. I am so impressed with her work.”

Like Feghouli, Ouardiri fell in love with filmmaking when she was a young girl. “It comes from my love of storytelling when I was kid,” Ouardiri says. “I used to create live productions with my cousins and we would invite our parents to see our shows.”

A validating experience

The Swiss-Moroccan screenwriter and film director moved to Montreal to study film production at Concordia. Ouardiri says her studies helped her hone her skills and shape her career.

“Studying at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema gave me confidence. My teachers encouraged me, and the experience was a validation. I also made some lifelong friends, many of whom I work with today.”

Ouardiri adds that she is also grateful for the groundbreaking women filmmakers who blazed a trail in the film industry. “Support from Telefilm Canada and SODEC [the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles in Quebec] has improved in recent years for women filmmakers.

“At TIFF this year, I am very happy for Quebec to have so many great films directed by women: Solo by Sophie Dupuis [BFA 10], and Vampire humaniste cherche suicidaire consentant by Ariane Louis-Seize among others.”

Ouardiri is currently negotiating financing for the production of her first fiction feature film, The Camel Driving School, a comedy co-produced by companies in different countries: Indie Prod and Take Shelter in France, Morocco’s Le Moindre Geste Production and Art et Essai in Canada.

“It’s important to me that The Camel Driving School is largely a Moroccan film,” says Ouardiri. “The Moroccan co-producers [added] the final touches on the script, and we presented everything to distributors at the beginning of October.”


The Skates premieres in Quebec at Cinemania on November 3.

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