Marrakech festival showcases Moroccan cinema

The revamped FIFM emphasised the Morocco’s cinema industry with seven films in the Panorama of Moroccan Cinema section.
Sunday 09/12/2018
Actor Robert De Niro (R) poses after receiving a tribute award from US director Martin Scorsese during the 17th Marrakech International Film Festival, December 1. (AP)
Star-studded edition. Actor Robert De Niro (R) poses after receiving a tribute award from US director Martin Scorsese during the 17th Marrakech International Film Festival, December 1. (AP)

MARRAKECH - The Marrakech International Film Festival (FIFM) made a strong comeback with a sizeable female representation, a star-studded guest list from the cinema industry and an exceptional number of Moroccan films after a 1-year hiatus.

The festival, which completed its 9-day run December 8, opened its 17th edition with “At Eternity’s Gate,” a new film by Julian Schnabel. The film depicts the last years of Vincent van Gogh’s life, his descent into madness but also his creative fever.

The revamped FIFM emphasised the Morocco’s cinema industry with seven films in the Panorama of Moroccan Cinema section.

Moroccan cinema has had relatively good success at home and abroad thanks to some directors’ daring movies that broke taboos in a society that is still conservative despite its openness to the West.

One of FIFM’s objectives is to boost the country’s cinema industry, said festival Artistic Director Christoph Terhechte. “I hope that the international guests will discover the best of recent Moroccan cinema,” he said.

Meryem Benm’Barek-Aloisi’s debut feature “Sofia,” Narjiss Nejjar’s “Stateless” and Hicham Lasri’s “Jahiliya” were among Moroccan films screened during the festival.

Faouzi Bensaidi, director of “Volubilis” which was also screened, said Moroccan cinema is firmly on the world stage thanks to the noticeable growth in national film production.

Bensaidi, whose “Death for Sale” (2011) won the CICAE award at the Berlinale, highlighted the significant participation of Moroccan cinema in major Arab and international film festivals due to sensitive social, political and cultural issues it addresses.

Hollywood stars, including Academy Award-winner Robert De Niro and Laurence Fishburne, US director Martin Scorsese and Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro attended the event. Egyptian cinema diva Yousra and Italian director/producer Valeria Golino were also among the list of female celebrities in attendance.

De Niro received a tribute award from Scorsese for his exceptional career. “We made our first film together, I think it was over 45 years ago… One of the great blessings of my life,” De Niro said during the ceremony.

De Niro worked on a range of films with Scorsese, including “Taxi Driver” in 1976 and “Casino” in 1995.

He took the opportunity to blast US President Donald Trump’s “bad” politics.

“Sadly, in my country, we are going through a grotesque version of nationalism… the diabolical form of nationalism marked by greed, xenophobia and selfishness under the banner of ‘America First’,” he said.

US director James Gray, chairman of this year’s festival, was more scathing in his criticism of Trump. “It’s been very hard for me to be here because the president of the United States is a moron and a very dangerous moron,” Gray said at a news conference.

FIFM organisers added a new touch to the festival, including “Conversations with…” sessions and workshops dedicated to film professionals.

“A daring and quality cinema with a quite impressive level of control,” said Terhechte.

Six films directed by women out of 14 were selected for the Etoile D’or. The jury, with Gray as chairman, was composed of five women and four men, a first in FIFM’s history.

“This jury happens to have more women and perhaps there might be an avenue for this to occur more often in the future, and I think that’s awesome,” said “Fifty Shades” star Dakota Johnson, who was on the jury.

Some 80 films from 29 countries were screened during the festival.

“We’ve covered different aspects of world cinema and also taken care to select Moroccan films as well as work from the Arab world and Africa,” said Terhechte.

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