Afef Ben Mahmoud , Khalil Benkirane
Morocco - Tunisia - France - Qatar - Belgium - Norway


A Tunisian dance troupe is concluding a Moroccan tour. While performing in an Atlas town, Aida, one of the six dancers, provokes Hedi, who injures her. In hopes of healing Aida and saving the last show, which is of utmost importance, the troupe gets on their bus to reach the doctor in the next village. On the way, the bus breaks down and the dancers are stuck in a forest on a bright night above a majestic landscape. A road-movie journey commences as the troupe decides to walk through the forest. Along the way, the true faces of the characters reveal themselves.

1st feature
Director of photography

Benjamin Rufi


Ghalya Lacroix

Music Composer

Steve Shehan

Main Cast

Sondos Belhassen, Saleh Bakri, Afef Ben Mahmoud, Abdalah Badis, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Sofiane Ouissi, Hajiba Fahmy, Ali Thabet, Nassim Baddag, Salima Abdel Wahab


Lycia Productions (Morocco)
Khalil Benkirane
[email protected]


Mésanges Films (Tunisia)
Afef Ben Mahmoud

Les films de l’Altaï (France)
Tania Khoury

IOTA productions (Belgium)
Isabelle Truc

DUOfilm (Norway)
Linda Bolstad Strønen, Ingrid Lill Høgtun

Director’s statement

In Backstage, we focused on a particular aspect of the life of a troupe: that of settling scores between partners, a reckoning that is never visible to the public and that happens much more often than we think. The stage becomes the place and the space-time where the complicity of a truope is at its paroxysm. Indeed, on the stage there is "us" and there is the audience. Onstage, a troupe becomes like a single being, erasing individuality in the service of the show. The bodies of our dancers allow us to tackle subjects that are sensitive in an Arab world full of prohibition and taboo. Women continue to be seen as merely those who give birth or can give birth: a being, a body dictated by a biological clock. Her only expected choice is to follow this "natural order." To counter such general assumptions, it was fundamental that we stage women and men who simply try to be free and who assume themselves to be so.


Afef Ben Mahmoud
Afef Ben Mahmoud

At a young age, Afef Ben Mahmoud devoted herself to an artistic career as a dancer and actor, and began her filmmaking career with three shorts. Recently, she launched Mésanges Films and produced Nouri Bouzid's latest film, The Scarecrows, in which she also appears in one of the main roles. The film had its world premiere in the Official Selection of the Venice International Film Festival in 2019. Since then, Mésanges Films has been in production with Backstage, on which Ben Mahmoud is a co-producer and co-director, and appears in a leading role.

Khalil Benkirane
Khalil Benkirane
Director & producer

After finishing high school, Khalil left Morocco for the United States, where he studied and worked for twenty years. After his studies in cinema, he directed Cinemayaat, the San Francisco Arab Film Festival, from 1998 to 2002. He then returned to Morocco, where he directed and produced his first feature-length documentary, The White Thread. In 2018, Khalil launched Lycia Productions, through which he co-produced Nouri Bouzid’s The Scarecrows and Ali Essafi’s Before the Dying of the Light. Benkirane is currently working on Backstage, a feature-length film that he is co-producing and co-directing with Afef Ben Mahmoud.

Total budget

€1 300 000

Financing secured

€900 000

Partners attached

CCM, CNCI, CNC, Doha Film Institute, Tax Shelter(Belgium), Sørfond, Metafora

Shooting period and locations

October - November 2021 - Middle Atlas, Morocco

Expected delivery

May 2022

Stage of post-production

End of Shoot November 12, 2021

Looking for

Sales, distributors, VOD patforms, funds

Other Films in production or post-production