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Marrakech fest celebrates Egyptian cinema

Youssef Chahine's 'Chaos,' 'Land' to screen

BEIRUT — Next year Morocco will celebrate 50 years of film by marking the anniversary of Mohamed Ousfour’s 1958 feature “Le Fils maudit” (The Damned Son), but in the meantime the Intl. Film Festival of Marrakech is reserving the honors for Egypt.

A 40-film tribute to 100 years of Egyptian cinema is among many highlights of the seventh edition at Marrakech, which is screening veteran director Youssef Chahine’s latest, politically charged “Chaos,” alongside his 1969 classic “The Land.” Other selections by Egyptian helmers Salah Abou Seif, Tewfik Saleh, Yousri Nasrallah and Oussama Fawzi, among many others, also will attest to the golden age of Hollywood on the Nile.

Marrakech isn’t the best place to scout Moroccan talent – festivals in Tangier and Casablanca have a tighter focus on local films — and true to tradition, the fest is fielding only one Moroccan pic in competition, Latif Lahlou’s “Les Jardins de samira,” which already snagged a critics prize in Montreal.

But while Marrakech is still young, the fest has established itself for being ruthlessly international, intensely contemporary and committed to filmmaking of such quality to satiate hard-core cinephiles and public auds alike.

“We should all be citizens of the world but it is difficult to do,” says Bruno Barde, the fest’s artistic director since 2004. “Of course Marrakech is beautiful, but it is hard to organize a new festival there. The only thing that can make a difference is to show good films in good theaters. We’ve made a bet on quality in Marrakech.”

The 15 films in competition boast healthy doses of Eastern European and Asian fare, while the Coup de Coeur sidebar places special emphases on women and conflict in Arab and African societies.

Also on offer are Flashbacks, devoted to Michelangelo Antonio, Ingmar Bergman and Tunisian producer Ahmed Baha Attia, all of whom died this year.

In addition, Marrakech is paying tribute to Japanese director Shinji Aoyama.

As always, the outdoor screenings at the Jamaa al-Fna are poised to be as popular and raucous as the festival’s main venue at the Palais des Congres is glitzy and glamorous.

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