VCFA interviewed MFA in Film alumnx Hafid Abdelmoula (F ’19) about his award-winning film, BROKEN GAIETE, and his time at VCFA for the 2023 edition of the alumnx magazine, in residence. Read our interview with Abdelmoula, as it appeared in the magazine, below.

From Thesis to Theater

What influences your art? 

What influences you?

What do these influences ultimately mean to you?

For VCFA Film alumnx Hafid Abdelmoula (F ’19), these questions are at the core of his artistic practice and a vital force behind his 2022 fantasy mystery film, BROKEN GAIETE (also called VILLAGE).

Art can be found in every corner of Hafid Abdelmoula’s life. He is not only a filmmaker but also a writer, actor, and singer. “My journey into the world of art was quite an exciting and unexpected one,” recalls Abdelmoula. “From a young age growing up in Morocco, I found myself drawn towards the performing arts—music and drama were my first loves. My involvement with the Musical Conservatoire, the local theater, and my college drama artist club provided the foundation for my career in the arts.”

Soon after moving to the US, these formative experiences pushed Abdelmoula into the performance of film. “I was captivated by the ability to capture emotions, moments, and stories in such a tangible yet elusive manner,” explains Abdelmoula of his newfound interest. “With film, I could blend my love for music, drama, and visual storytelling into a unified medium… Each artistic medium, be it music, theater, or film, complements and informs the others in some way.”

Headshot of VCFA MFA in Film alumnx Hafid Abdelmoula

Upon solidifying his passion for filmmaking, Abdelmoula sought out a graduate program to help pin the ideas forming in his head down on paper—leading him to the MFA in Film program at VCFA. While studying at VCFA, Abdelmoula started working on his now career-changing VCFA thesis film, BROKEN GAIETE. BROKEN GAIETE follows protagonist Idir and a woman named Kashou (who asserts she is his mother) as they wake up in a foreign land with little to no concept of who they are or what came before that moment. The pair stumble upon a village governed by peculiar, extreme rules and integrate themselves into the community in order to start anew. But soon, disturbing rituals and secrets are uncovered—all of which are followed, completely unquestioned, by the villagers. As Abdelmoula says, these circumstances offer “a strong critique of religious, communistic, and dictatorial societal struggles, reflecting the tragedies that have marred human history. … This film is more than just a story; it’s a catalyst for dialogue, questioning societal norms and prompting introspection.”

In creating BROKEN GAIETE, one of Abdelmoula’s greatest influences was his own relationship with place and person. “My journey of almost two decades living between Morocco and the United States has indeed shaped me into what I’d refer to as a ‘multicultural hybrid human being.’ I’m both Moroccan and American, constantly switching between these two cultures,” says Abdelmoula. “This multicultural perspective heavily influenced the creation of BROKEN GAIETE. Creating BROKEN GAIETE was my attempt to give shape to this cultural duality. I wanted to communicate the richness, the beauty, and yes, sometimes, the confusion that comes with carrying two perspectives inside oneself. This duality not only influences how I see the world but also how I express my ideas and creativity.”

Continuing, Abdelmoula notes that through his film, he aimed to capture the deeply important and impactful “universal struggle of identity and belonging.” In examining this universality, he says: “This film is deeply personal to me. It is a reflection of my own journey as a Moroccan-American, the dual cultural experience I’ve embraced. But more importantly, it’s a reflection of our shared human journey—one of exploration, struggle, understanding, and, ultimately, acceptance. My hope is that it resonates with audiences, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, prompting introspection and conversation about these universal themes.”

And the film has certainly resonated with audiences everywhere. Since its release, BROKEN GAIETE has been recognized with 15 nominations and five wins at notable film festivals, including Best Film at the Santa Fe Film Festival, and Best Director at the El Paso Film Festival, Madrid International Film Festival, and the World Music & Independent Film Festival.

“The journey from production to reception of BROKEN GAIETE has been an extraordinary experience, filled with challenges, growth, and immense satisfaction,” says Abdelmoula. “Beginning as my VCFA thesis film, [BROKEN GAIETE] was a deeply personal project where I could bring my visions and beliefs to life. … Seeing the film receive nominations and wins was incredibly rewarding. … However, beyond the awards, what has truly touched me is the audience reception. Hearing how viewers connected with the film, how it resonated with them and sparked discussions—these are the moments that have meant the most to me as a filmmaker.”

With its roots cultivated during his time at VCFA, yet another guiding hand in the production of BROKEN GAIETE was the community and the lessons Abdelmoula gained while steeped in the MFA in Film program. “My time at VCFA was pivotal in shaping BROKEN GAIETE,” says Abdelmoula. “The college’s rigorous curriculum, combined with the flexibility of its hybrid program, allowed me to balance work and study, enriching my filmmaking approach. The diversity and creativity within the VCFA community was incredibly stimulating and broadened my artistic perspective. Of particular value were my face-to-face advisors [who were] seasoned filmmakers [that] offered invaluable guidance and insight.”

“Today,” Abdelmoula adds, “as I work on my upcoming projects, I often draw upon the lessons learned and experiences gained at VCFA.”

And with these upcoming projects, Abdelmoula is pushing his work forward on all fronts. He recently completed a short film, ARTO, and as of the writing of this article, he is in production for his latest film, INVISIBLE SHACKLES. The films explore the creative spirit and the societal constraints of gender respectively. In addition to his filmography, Abdelmoula co-hosts a podcast with Mark Vasconcellos called HumaniTEA, which features perspectives on filmmaking and offers “a personal and intimate conversation over a cup of Moroccan tea.” To stay up to date with these projects, Abdelmoula invites the VCFA community to visit his personal website and social media, where he regularly posts updates and behind-the-scenes features.

Hafid Abdelmoula has spent his career discovering, gleaning, reflecting, and creating. And this expedition, from VCFA to BROKEN GAIETE to his latest projects, is only a beginning. The next chapter is ready to be written, and he will bring the lessons he learned from BROKEN GAIETE with him as he writes.

“In essence, this journey has shaped me, helped me mature as an artist, and reinforced my passion for storytelling,” reflects Abdelmoula. “It has taught me that cinema, at its best, is not just about entertainment but about sparking dialogue, building bridges, and, hopefully, bringing about change.”

Learn more about Hafid Abdelmoula’s work at

Read more stories about our alumnx through our Alumnx Success series. Interested in an MFA in Film? Visit our program page for more information on our VCFA graduate degrees.