‘Departed’ opens Marrakech

New pics from Nejjar and Feret in competition

MADRID — Continuing his association with the Marrakech Intl. Film Festival, Martin Scorsese’s U.S. hit “The Departed” will open the fest’s sixth edition, which runs Dec. 1-9.

Marrakech closes with Patrice Leconte’s “My Best Friend.”

In 2005, Scorsese received a tribute at Marrakech, and co-hosted a Marrakech Festival Foundation/Tribeca young filmmakers workshop with Abbas Kiarostami.

Though Scorsese will not be attending the festival this year, Marrakech will screen a selection of 11 Italian films chosen by him under the title “A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through Italian movies,” as part of its around 50-film Italian Cinema retro. Fest also screens a Taj Mahal Indian Panorama.

Susan Sarandon, Chinese helmer Jia Zhangke, Egyptian director Tewfik Saleh, Moroccan actor Mohamed Majd and husband and wife Bollywood thesps Ajay and Kajol Devgan will be honored this year at an event whose eclecticism also informs its 15-pic competition and main sidebars.

The 2006 edition’s pics are drawn from 22 countries.

Narjiss Nejjar’s “Wake-Up Morocco” and Rene Feret’s “Il a suffi que maman s’en aille” world preem at Marrakech. “But my priority is not premieres, simply the best films I can find,” said fest artistic director Bruno Barde.

Competish highlights look likely to include Andrucha Waddington’s admired “The House of Sand,” and among lesser-known pics, Romanian Radu Muntean’s “The Paper Will Be Blue,” a chronicle of a chaotic night in Bucharest hours after the death of Nicolae Ceausescu, and Dane Ole Christian Madsen’s “Prague,” a heady record of a disintegrating marriage.

“One aim of Marrakech is to discover and support new talent,” said fest VP Faical Laraichi.

Marrakech normally screens only one Moroccan film in competish. “We want the event to be truly international,” said fest’s other VP Nour-eddine Sail.

This year, as an exception, there’s a second Moroccan competish player, Faouzi Bensaidi’s “WWW — What a Wonderful World,” an off-kilter, jocose hired assassin romancer set in a markedly modern Casablanca, a world of cellphones, high-rise office towers, traffic jams and loneliness.

Competish features multiple features turning on a concern for children — such as Songyos Sugmakanan’s chiller “Dorm” and Jean-Stephane Bron’s adoption drama “My Brother Is Getting Married” — plus acerbic takes on modern existence: Francesca Comencini’s Milan-profile “Our Country” and Antonio Chavarrias’ take on a Barcelona working class barrio, “Celia’s Lives.”

Competish is rounded up by Emilio Estevez’s “Bobby,” Iranian Maziar Miri’s socially-tinged “Gradually,” Malaysian James Lee’s love triangle “Before We Fall In Love Again,” German Dominik Graf’s ’60s-set “The Red Cockatoo” and Robert Favreau’s Rwanda massacre record “A Sunday in Kigali.”

Beyond “Departed” and “Friend,” out-of-competition players include “Oliver Twist,” which is helmed by Marrakech jury prexy Roman Polanski, plus a bevy of recent national cinema standouts: Italian Emanuele Crialese’s “Golden Door,” a psychological take on Sicily to Ellis Island immigration; Egyptian Marwan Hamed’s taboo-breaking critical and B.O. smash “Yacoubian Building,” and Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Omkara,” an Indian gangster reworking of “Othello.”

Other pics include Jia Zhangke’s Venice winner “Still Life,” Rachid Bouchareb’s “Days of Glory,” Eric Barbier’s mainstream “The Snake” and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Babel.”

Fest also features a Seance Coup de Coeur section for often smaller edgier pics, such as Simone van Dusseldorp’s praised Dutch coming-of-ager “Deep,” Patrick Tam’s father-son drama “After This Our Exile” and Dane Peter Schonau Fog’s quirky incest tale “The Art of Crying.” All feature problems confronting children.

OFFICIAL COMPETITION, 6TH MARRAKECH INTL. FILM FESTIVAL

“Our Country,” Francesca Comencini (Italy)
“Gradually,” Maziar Miri (Iran)
“Before We Fall in Love Again,” James Lee (Malaysia)
“The House of Sand,” Andrucha Waddington (Brazil)
“Dorm,” Songyos Sugmakanan (Thailand)
“The Red Cockatoo,” Dominik Graf (Germany)
“The Paper Will Be Blue,” Radu Muntean (Romania)
“Il a suffi que maman s’en aille,” Rene Feret (France)
“Celia’s Lives,” Antonio Chavarrias (Spain)
“My Brother is Getting Married,” Jean-Stephane Bron (Switzerland)
“Prague,” Ole Christian Madsen (Denmark)
“Bobby,” Emilio Estevez (U.S.)
“A Sunday in Kigali,” Robert Favreau (Canada)
“Wake-Up Morocco,” Narjiss Nejjar (Morocco)
“WWW — What a Wonderful World,” Faouzi Bensaidi (Morocco)

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