King Mohammed uses industry for social, political agenda

Few filmmakers can claim to have real royalty in their corner but the next generation of Moroccan directors, producers and screenwriters can count more than most on the monarchy’s support.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is known to be a film buff and it is widely said that he will not watch dubbed movies — he insists on original versions with subtitles so the sound is not damaged.

Since he ascended to the throne in 1999, King Mohammed has spearheaded numerous initiatives that have turned the country into a hothouse for foreign and local filmmakers alike.

The king has pushed through legislation to liberalize the sector, combat piracy and create funds for young talent. Such support also has political and economic dimensions — increasing foreign investment and creating jobs in a country that badly needs to battle unemployment and the risks associated with an impoverished populace that has too much time on its hands and finds too much succor in religious extremism.

The core of the king’s strategy is the Marrakech Intl. Film Festival and the foundation that supports it. The king offers his patronage to both, but the royal figure most relevant — and involved — is his younger brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, president of the Marrakech Intl. Film Festival Foundation since its inception in 2001.

“The perennial nature of the (foundation) is there,” says the prince, “with the deep-seated conviction that cinema can also render the world better … The (festival) has pursued its quest for quality and maintained its openness to the world until it has become one of the most highly anticipated cinematic events and a carrier of hope on the regional as well as international levels.”

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