Fest Traveler: Marrakech Film Festival

Morocco’s pubcasters, SNRT and 2M — jointly run by Stanford-educated Faical Laraichi — are major forces in local film and TV production.

Given fierce competition from about 300 pan-Arab satellite channels in Morocco, popular homegrown fiction is vital for safeguarding and increasing the pubcasters’ current 45%-50% primetime share.

Many of the country’s new generation of helmers have honed their skills by working for both small and large screen projects.

“We’re now seeing the benefits of a process that began around seven, eight years ago,” says Laraichi.

Director-producer Nabil Ayouch has been a key player in this evolution. Through his 2008-10 Made in Morocco project, he produced 42 genre-based TV movies, and groomed directors such as Hisham Lasri, whose “The End” screened at Marrakech.

In 2011, Ayouch produced two major TV hits for SNRT — the Arabic language telenovela, “Zinate al hayate” (The Beautiful Things of Life), spanning 120 episodes, co-produced with French TV powerhouse Telefrance (“Plus belle la vie”), and the 32-seg sitcom “Dima jirane” (Eternal Neighbors), which punched a 50%-60% audience share.

SNRT’s forthcoming projects include an ambitious 64-episode TV series “The Foreigner,” set in 1950s Morocco, to premiere in 2012.

On the basis of the success of local films and TV series, SNRT is putting together a rights catalog for the international market and, even more important, for the Arab world.

In order to improve local writing skills, Laraichi has also organized a series of project-driven screenwriting workshops in Casablanca with local production companies and writers, some involving U.K. and French experts.

“Our two key focuses are getting the script right and revealing new directing, writing and acting talent,” he says.

Finally, SNRT is increasing its involvement in international co-productions. Recently funded projects include Roschdy Zem’s “Omar Killed Me” and EuropaCorp’s $11 million “The Source,” which bowed this year at Cannes.

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