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Fight Cub: Marwan Kenzari and Nasrdin Dchar Talk Wolf
Paul Risker , November 8th, 2014 08:20

Jim Taihuttu's kickboxing thriller 'Wolf' is out on DVD now, so Paul Risker interviewed two of the film's stars about acting, their director and the future of Dutch film

Dutch film maker Jim Taihuttu had the honour of closing this year’s Raindance Film Festival, and drawing the curtain on yet another annual celebration of independent cinema with his sophomore feature Wolf. Ahead of the screening The Quietus had an opportunity to speak with Marwan Kenzari and Nasrdin Dchar, two of the film's actors who previously worked with Taihuttu on his debut feature Rabat.

Wolf centres on kickboxer Maj-id, played by Kenzari who describes him as a “caged animal in a big Dutch city who is stuck between the world of professional fighting and a certain type of hard street life.” From the tussle of fighters in the ring to the explosive combination of kickboxing and organised crime, Majid’s story is an archetypal one of the collision of the personal and the professional.

Kenzari and Dchar shared with us their thoughts on friendship, filmmaking and their hopes for the future of Dutch independent cinema.

Why a career in acting? Was there that one inspirational moment?

Marwan Kenzari: I think it was ten years ago when I saw Good Will Hunting for the first time. It was a moment that was a turning point for me.

Nasrdin Dchar: When I was eighteen years old I had a friend who was very ambitious, had great plans and everybody loved him. He was seventeen years old when he died in an accident, and when that happened I started to think about my own life and what I wanted to do. There was only one thing I wanted to do and that was to act. So I followed my passion and my dream, and that was seventeen years ago. Now I have had fourteen years of professional acting.

When you first read the script for Wolf what interested you in both the story and the character?

MK: I talked to the director [Jim Taihuttu] first about making a film together; about a character that is stuck between the world of professional fighting and a certain type of hard street life. He would also be dealing with all sorts of problems at home with his family, and he’d be like a caged animal in a big Dutch city. These were the things that were so interesting to make a film about that they drove us to make Wolf.

ND: Well that's also a whole different story. I love these guys; they are my best friends, and we had already done Rabat together. I don't even know how to describe Jim; he's very important to me and I totally believe in what he makes. But he's also important for the Dutch film world because the stories that he tells are important not only for himself, but for the land that we are living in.

I want to be part of that, and so whilst we were shooting Rabat I was already talking to Jim about adapting Wolf, even though I knew there was no part for me. But I had to be in this movie and then one day when he was on holiday in New York with his wife he sent me a text message saying, “You've got to lose some weight” and I immediately knew what he was talking about. In my head I was already the brother of Maj-id [Marwin Kenzari]. So that’s the story of how I got into this movie.

Of course I read the script and I loved the character, and even though there are only five scenes he is still very important. But for everything Jim makes I don't have to read it because I completely trust that he will make a great film.

As an actor can an interest in a project be pre-dominantly driven by story or must it always be a mix of both character and story?

MK: It is important that the character is an interesting human being. Life can be so complex, and the complexity of the human being is also very interesting. Together with the way the story has been told or the poetry of filmmaking, these are the two things that I try to look for: the story of the character in a whole picture. But I do think it is a combination of the two.

ND: In this case it is a combination. It is a story that I love and yet it's also real. You follow these guys, and Maj-id who’s very streetwise could also be a guy that I know. The character I play is also interesting, not only because I had to lose weight and physically prepare for this character for example. But the character of Maj-id is interesting because whether he's on the street or at home there are always tension and struggles, and the moment that he's in hospital there is peace and calm. 

Did your previous experience of working with Jim Taihuttu create a different dynamic second time around?

MK: The first film we made was Rabat, a romantic road movie. We were cruising with a lot of friends, driving through five different European cities, and it was sunny and exciting. It was our first film, and there were moments that we were highly concentrated and then there were moments where we were not friends at all. But that's just how it works, and Jim’s job is to be the captain of the ship, whilst it is my job together with him to tell the story.

Wolf was obviously a few years after Rabat, and we were a little bit older and hopefully a little bit better. But the circumstances were totally different. It was raining; it was winter and it was in the Netherlands. But still we were friends and we shared a room together. We rented an apartment for three months which we lived in, and it was actually quite similar. I know Jim very well, and he just has to blink with his eye and I know exactly what he needs or what he wants to see, and I think that works vice-versa.

ND: Well the first experience was like a dream come true. It was a great experience of making a movie with your friends, and travelling from Holland to Morocco. I enjoyed it and I even won a prize for best actor. So it really was a dream that came true. Jim only has to say one word and I know what he means and what he wants. This is how we work. I don't know how to explain it... It's just magic. Of course you listen to him and he will explain the characters, how he wants the scenes to play and what they mean, and then Marwan and I just did it.

When you finally sat down in front of the completed product, despite your knowledge and awareness did the film still have a powerful impact?

MK: I find it quite difficult to watch the film once it is done, because in your head or imagination it is totally different. In the beginning it is quite hard, and I don't mean hard as in a negative or a positive. It is difficult to see the film being edited and see the real images for the first time coming out of your head and onto the screen. Sometimes you are surprised that he left something in and he took something out. The director is the creator; he's the captain of the ship when it comes to the creative journey of the film, along of course with the producer. So when you start out acting you have to find a way to understand and to deal with that. But as I say I don't mean it as a negative or a positive.

When I saw Wolf for the first time I was excited and I thought we did a very good job. I was proud of us all, and we both thought that this film needed to be made, especially in our country.

ND: Yeah sometimes. It depends. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes you are in the movie and you have been cut out for a large part, and then you just don’t see a lot of yourself in it. But besides that the most important thing is the story you are telling. For me if you tell the story right then it doesn't matter how big or how small your part is because you are a part of something great, and for me Wolf is an example of such a movie. It's a great story, and Jim has found a great way to tell it.

What are your thoughts on Dutch independent cinema, and are you optimistic for its future?

MK: Artistic films are very important, and while they are maybe not driven by commercial aspects, I think that it is very important that script writers get the chance to write something original, and something that needs to be made. I am very happy with a couple of the young upcoming directors in the Netherlands, and it is good to have not only young artistic individuals, but people that want to make a film because of a love of film, and not specifically because everyone has to see it. It's fine if everybody is able to see your film because that's perfect and it’s beautiful. But it needs to be driven by the quality of the creative process. But I think that the development of film is very important as it is a part of culture, creativity and storytelling, and I'm proud to be a small part of that.

ND: I'm very optimistic because there is a lot of talent in Holland right now who have the opportunity to make movies; it is not only Jim. The most important thing is that it is talent who have their own stories to tell; with their own way of telling them. That propensity is something that is both great and important.

Wolf is available on DVD now