Faouzi Bensaïdi
Morocco - France - Germany - Belgium


Long-time friends Mehdi and Hamid work for a collection agency. They travel through the villages of southern Morocco in their old car and share double rooms in shabby hotels. They are exactly the same size, wear the same suits and ties, have the same shoes. Paid a pittance, they try to play hardball to make money. One day, in a petrol station in the middle of the desert, a motorbike pulls up in front of them. A threatening man is handcuffed to the luggage rack. He is the Escaped Man. This meeting marks the beginning of an unexpected and mystical journey. 

Director of photography

Florian Berutti


Véronique Lange, Faouzi Bensaïdi

Main Cast

Fehd Benchemsi, Abdelhadi Taleb, Rabii Benjhaile, Hajar Graigaa


Barney Production (France)
Saïd Hamich Benlarbi 


NiKo Film (Germany)
Nicole Gerhards 

Mont Fleuri Production (Morocco)
Saïd Hamich Benlarbi 

Entre Chien et Loup (Belgium)
Sébastien Delloye 

International Sales

Urban Sales (France)
Frédéric Corvez 

Director’s statement

Deserts is a modern twilight Western. Today, cars have replaced horses, and there is asphalt instead of dirt roads, electricity pylons and telecommunication towers rather than trees. Men and birds of prey, however, remain. The various chapters of the film bring together the values, traditions and humanity of the old with the brutality of the new. The border between them is porous, uncertain. A mystery hovers; characters and stories become entangled. I see the film as a round. The story is made up of breaks, displacements and roads criss-crossed at full speed. With Deserts, I want one story and its staging gradually to give way to another, and I want to leave plenty of room for the spectator’s imagination. The burlesque can be tinged with film noir, the social with suspense, and the real, when it welcomes abstraction, can open onto the cosmic. 


Faouzi Bensaïdi
Faouzi Bensaïdi

After working as a theatre director and actor, Faouzi Bensaïdi directed his first short film, La Falaise, which won twenty-four awards in international festivals. He then made the short films Le Mur, which won a prize at the Festival de Cannes, and Trajets, which won a prize at the Venice Film Festival. In 2003, his first feature-length film, Mille Mois, won two awards when it was presented in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes. In 2006, his second film, WWW—What a Wonderful World, was selected for Venice Days and distributed internationally. Death for Sale, his third feature, was selected for and won an award at the Berlin International Film Festival. His most recent film, Volubilis, was selected for Venice Days in 2017.

Saïd Hamich Benlarbi
Saïd Hamich Benlarbi

A graduate of La Fémis and winner of the Jean-Luc Lagardère Foundation Film Producer Grant, Saïd Hamich Benlarbi is a French-Moroccan screenwriter, director and producer. He has collaborated with filmmakers including Nabil Ayouch, Meryem Benm’Barek, Faouzi Bensaïdi, Leyla Bouzid, Clément Cogitore, Philippe Faucon and Rachel Lang. In 2018, he directed his first film, Return to Bollene, which was nominated for the Prix Louis-Delluc for Best First Film. In 2021, his short film Le Départ was selected for 100 international festivals and won 27 awards and was nominated for a César Award in 2022. Across the Sea is his second feature-length film.

Total budget

€1 700 000

Financing secured

€1 474 529

Partners attached

CCM, CNC, Institut Français, Eurimages, OIF, AFAC, DFI, FFA, MOIN Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, Nordmedia – Film-und Mediengesellschaft Niedersachsen/Bremen, Arte ZDF, Tax Shelter, Condor Entertainment

Shooting period and locations

November - December 2021, Casablanca, Khénifra, Midelt, Erfoud, Ouarzazate, Marrakech (Morocco)

World premiere expected: 2023