Every Winter of each year the International Film Festival of Marrakesh is held for a stretch of four days. It is renowned for its prestige in terms of cinematographic production and is comparable to the Cannes film festival in the south of France. The Marrakech Film Festival was established in 2001 and has become Morocco’s largest annual event for the medium of film, which is increasingly gaining recognition as an art form.
The International Film Festival of Marrakech is a one of the largest events devoted to film in Morocco; a location of the principal photography of many international productions. The jury of the festival gathers film directors, producers, actors, distributors, journalists and personalities from all over the world and endeavors to reward the best Moroccan and foreign productions of feature films and short films. The festival is chaired by Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco.
Apart from being a popular source of entertainment, the films shown at Marrakech’s International Film Festival are used as a powerful tool for educating, and even indoctrinating, the public. Today, the cinema industry is very important to Morocco and production standards are maintained at a very high level.
Veteran US movie director Martin Scorsese and Hollywood heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio or Bollywood superstars like Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan weere or Egyptians popular movie actors Nour Shrif, Yousra…all guests of honor at different opening galas of Marrakesh Film Festival. l.
Previous festivals have attracted leading Hollywood film directors, such as Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, whose film “Kundun”, based on the life and writings of the Dalai Lama, was filmed at the Atlas Studios in Ouarzazate, Morocco.
Morocco has also been the setting for famous films such as David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Othello” which was directed by Orson Welles. By attracting film makers from all over the world, The International Film Festival of Marrakech promotes Morocco’s many natural and historical sights in an effort to attract further international movie productions. Morocco’s own developing film and travel industry benefit from the festival and interaction with film makers from other countries.
Many attendants of the Marrakech Film Festival enjoy it because it is more intimate and relaxed than some of the overly crowded or more rushed ones like the Cannes or Berlin film festivals. The International Film Festival of Marrakech has also played an essential role in educating the public, both in Morocco and abroad, on current issues and events in Morocco. It has raised awareness about Moroccan culture and promotes natural and historical sights in Morocco. Morocco’s own developing film industry benefits from the festival and interaction with film makers from other countries. The festival also helps promote Morocco’s growing travel industry.
The films that are shown have an aim to preserve cultural and historical Moroccan events for future generations. While some of the films are shown in English, many more are created in the native dialect of the actor and are dubbed with subtitles. The opportunity to view dubbed foreign films is a unique opportunity because it gives the audience members a chance to gain insight on issues as seen from the perspective of a native. Another nice initiative is also that of a series of screenings for the visually impaired and a photography exhibition of shots taken by visually impaired people. There is also a charity purpose to this in order to provide cataract operations to patients in the region of Marrakech-Tensift Al Haouz.
Each year awards including the Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Audience Awards and Cinema of the South are given out. The award ceremonies create incentives for film makers to create higher quality movies and this ultimately enhances the reputation of the film festival.
Marrakech, with its Jamaa El Fna (market square) that bustles with storey-tellers, acrobats, dancers and musicians, has proven to be the perfect venue for the festival. Past festivals have been a resounding success and there is every reason to believe that future festivals will be even more exciting. Audiences from all over the world are sure to be entertained by the festival and enthralled by the beauty and mystery of Marrakech.
Marrakesh, soon the wolrd capital of cinema.
About the author: Said Temsamani
Senior Fellow at the Meridian International Center and member of the National Press Club, Washington DC. Said Temsamani is a political analyst who follows events in Morocco and across North Africa.