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Marrakesh Film Fest wraps

'Wild Field' wins festival's grand prize

The Marrakech Film Fest wrapped Nov. 22 with “Wild Field,” a magical realism tale set in the Russian Steppes, by Georgian director Mikhail Kalatozishvili, winning the grand prize: the Golden Star for best film.

“I’m impressed by the tremendous enthusiasm for cinema here in Marrakech,” announced jury president Barry Levinson in the Marrakech Film Festival’s gala closing ceremony.

Fifteen films from four continents had competed for top kudos in the competition section. Chinese movie “The Shaft” by Zhang Chi, about a group of miners working in Western China, won the jury prize for best director.

Melissa Leo won actress honors for her portrayal of an abandoned single mother in Courtney Hunt’s gritty thriller “Frozen River.”

Finnish thesp Eero Aho was named best actor for his role in Aku Louhimies’ 1918 Finnish Civil War drama “Tears of April.”

Marrakech has a clear international bent and Moroccan cinema usually has a relatively small presence. But to highlight Moroccan cinema’s 50th anniversary, the fest gave an unusually high profile to national films in this year’s edition.

Three Moroccan films were shown in the fest’s three categories: competition, Coup de Coeur and out of Competition.

“Kandisha,” by U.S.-trained Jerome Cohen Olivar, is a groundbreaking film for the homegrown industry — a science fiction film targeted at an international audience.

“Tu te souviens d’Adil,” by Bologna-based Mohamed Zineddaine, focuses on young Moroccans who aim to emigrate to Europe. Co-produced with Italy, the film paints a vivid, sensual portrayal of Morocco including some of the miniscule social elements that ultimately fuel religious fundamentalism.

“Amours voilées,” by Aziz Salmy, generated the most powerful audience reaction of any of the local films. With hints of a Moroccan-style “Sex in the City,” the film follows the lives of five young women living in Casablanca, struggling to forge meaningful relationships in a world divided between the powerful and contradictory forces of tradition and modernity.

“There’s a certain schizophrenia in modern Morocco,” explains Salmy. “Neither men nor women are really sure what they want anymore.”

Several members of the nine-person jury emphasized the impressive turnout of locals at all fest screenings, underpinning Marrakech’s position as one of the Arab world’s premier festivals.

Bruno Barde, the fest’s artistic director, is delighted with the evolution of the event. In 10 years’ time he believes Marrakech will have one of the most sophisticated audiences in terms of world cinema.

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