Wide Angle

Diaspo #188 : Reda Chebchoubi, an artist who combines cinema, writing and social work

Movie director, producer, theater actor, but also social educator, Reda Chebchoubi has more than one string to his bow. His area of predilection is to create a bridge between young people, migratory history in Europe and multiple identities.

Estimated read time: 3'

Born in 1979 in Brussels to parents from Tangier, Reda Chebchoubi opted for law studies, before deciding to follow his passion for theater and cinema. It was when he left one of his classes that he discovered a casting announcement, in which he decided to participate, without imagining that this would be a turning point in his life.

Reda Chebchoubi grew up in a family where nothing predicted that he would be into acting. In Ixelles, the social environment was not very mixed at that time and at school, he often found himself the only student of Moroccan origin in his class. He was subjected to some degree of discrimination, without really understanding it. In football too, the young Belgian-Moroccan found himself discriminated against.

Theater and literature

«When I started acting, my mother told me it wasn't for people like us. I told myself that if I were not going to get there, I would continue the course of my life as it was!» he recalled. Quickly noticed in the artistic community of Brussels in the early 2000s, Reda played in more than 22 short films and went behind the camera to direct others. 

As an actor, he participated in 13 feature films and direct-to-TV films and directed them in Morocco for TV channel 2M. He participated in «Tbib L'village - Home care», but also in two series, including a web series produced by Yabiladi in 2008.

Reda Chebchoubi is no stranger to the theater, since he played in eight shows, including Ismaël Saidi's ‘Jihad’, scheduled in several countries. During his theatrical tour, he was approached by a publishing house, which offered him to write a book on his career. «I wondered who this might be interesting for, but the publisher convinced me that it was important to show examples that give hope to young people», the artist said.

Reda Chebchoubi published his book «My ancestors the Gauls», in which he addresses the question of diversity and identity. «It starts with a tiring question that was asked to me during my childhood: what is better, Belgium or Morocco?» Reda recalled. «It took me a lifetime to find my own answer: to me, Morocco is my father, a father who was absent when I was born, whom I did not know, whom I discovered while growing up», he explained.

It is while acting in a film directed by Brahim Chkiri («Intiqam») that Reda traveled 5,000 kilometers to really discover his parents’ country of origin. «I would say that Belgium is my mother, I was born in Belgium, who always treated me like her son, with kindness. I grew up in this country, I benefited from its healthcare when I fell ill and I attended Belgian school», the artist said.

«When I lost my father at the age of 17, I was able to pursue my studies, whereas if I had lived the same situation in Morocco, I think I would have stopped and looked for work to make ends meet. In Belgium, I received an orphan's allowance, I attended higher education and we benefitted from social housing».

Reda Chebchoubi

By calling his book «My ancestors the Gauls», Reda Chebchoubi launched «a rant against all those who say that we are not at home», making many dual nationals feel like foreigners in their two countries. The book thus argues that «identity is like a mille-feuille» made up of several layers. «We were made to believe that this diversity is a defect, whereas it is a richness which deserves to be exploited», said the artist, who makes of his conviction a message to transmit to young people, within the framework of his work.

As such, he is active within the framework of the association «Training and Pedagogy» in France, in collaboration with three ministries to intervene in middle and high schools. As a social worker helping young people, he leads workshops on identity building, alongside his artistic career.

A dynamic between writing, art, social work and memory

Building on this dynamic, Reda Chebchoubi is publishing a book on community withdrawal. He also continues to increase artistic collaborations, particularly in the context of comedy film «Moroccan Gigolos», which he remembers from a family anecdote.

«I hid from my mother the name of this film and pretended that it was called ‘Moroccan Rigolos’ (jokers, ed), but she ended up discovering the name of the film through TV.We wouldn’t meet for a month and a half because she wouldn't allow her son's name to be associated with a gigolo-related film».

Reda Chebchoubi

Now a father, Reda Chebchoubi has allowed his children to grow up in an environment where they are exposed to art. His daughter Yasmine also «took her first steps in a shooting where [she] worked at and attended with her mother», he said.

The history of labor migration and of ancestors mobilized in the battlefields are also subjects that are close to his heart, because knowing them allows the youngest to find their identity haunts between their two countries. Currently, Reda Chebchoubi is working on writing a feature film with Hicham Slaoui and Laurent Denis, to retrace the history of Moroccan immigration. He is also working on a show that he hopes to stage at the end of the health crisis, entitled ‘Les tirailleurs’.

This play tells of the participation of Moroccan soldiers on the frontlines during the World War II in Europe. «These elderly people died for the most part, without benefiting from the pension they were entitled to», explained Reda Chebchoubi, who works on the project with Hicham Slaoui, his work partner, as well as Belgian-Moroccan actor Samir Kadi.

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