×

Moroccan fest touts local production

Marrakech event has foreign filmmaking subtext

MARRAKECH, Morocco — The second Marrakech Film Fest closed Sunday, 10 days after workers broke ground on a local film studio financed by Universal, Fox and Dino Di Laurentiis.

On Wednesday, the opening day of the fest, jury prexy Jeanne Moreau cited Andre Malraux — “the cinema is a dream that can reconciliate people in a murderous world” — after musicians from a dozen regions of the country welcomed participants to the dramatically lit ruins of the 16th century Palais El Badii.

Moreau presented Francis Ford Coppola with a career award in the presence of a smattering of international talent that included Catherine Deneuve, Costa-Gavras and David Lynch, who received a similar homage later in the week.

Chris and Paul Weitz presented “About a Boy,” as the opening-night competition pic.

Matt Dillon’s directorial debut “City of Ghosts” premiered during the fest.

The competition aspect of the Marrakech fest is clearly not the $2 million event’s most important. The majority of competing pics had already debuted in other international venues, and it’s the rare film buff who’s even heard of the Golden Star, the fest’s top prize.

From the rhetoric spouted by everyone from King Mohammed VI’s economic adviser to the hotel guide who was an extra in “The Man Who Would Be King,” the fest’s subtext was the marketing of Morocco as the next best film location.

The fest’s hiring of Daniel Toscan de Plantier, the indefatigable Unifrance topper, to run the show again this year means the government has its fingers crossed he will do for filmmaking in Morocco what he has already done for French film promotion around the world.

Baz Luhrmann, a partner in the new studio, located in Ouarzazate in southern Morocco, is one of several filmmakers already sold on the location; he will shoot “Alexander the Great” there at the end of 2003.

“Sixty million dollars of the film’s $150 million budget will be invested in the country,” Souheil Ben Barka, head of the Moroccan Film Center told Daily Variety. Ben Barka added that $15 million of the $60 million De Laurentiis production “The Last Legend” will also be spent in Morocco.

“The light in Morocco is spectacular,” said L.A.-based Italian Vogue photographer Michel Haddi, a Moroccan. “New Yorkers shoot in Miami. Europeans shoot in Morocco.”

But its not only the light — which when filtered by the sand rising from the desert floor makes for dazzling cinematography — that’s drawn the crews of “Gladiator,” “Black Hawk Down” and other productions that have poured $200 million into the economy of this poor nation since 2000.

Ben Barka said other incentives to shoot in Morocco include an exoneration of the 20% Euro VAT tax on all goods and services, use of the Royal military and National Police, same-day custom clearance for equipment and 300 rain-free days a year.

All 1,500 of Morocco’s below-the-line film technicians work constantly, though preferably on foreign pics on which they earn five to six times more than on Moroccan productions, which now number a dozen a year.

“We’ve had a renaissance of national cinema,” said Andre Azoulay, the King’s economic adviser and veep of the Marrakech Fest Foundation.

The Marrakech fest is essentially a public event, with hundreds of movies and shorts shown at venues as spectacular as the El Badii or the gigantic Jemaa El Fna square, where women behind veils got the chance to giggle at films they’d rarely see otherwise, such as “Bend It Like Beckham” or “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • David Kehrl neuer Head of Acquisitions

    'Resident Evil's' Constantin Names Acquisitions, International Co-Production Chief

    David Kehrl is to join Constantin Film, Germany’s leading independent movie producer and distributor, as the head of acquisitions and international co-production. He will report to Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the executive board at Constantin Film, which produces the “Resident Evil” movies. Starting in February, Kehrl will be responsible for the acquisition of international theatrical [...]

  • The Plague Season 2 Spanish TV

    Telefonica, Atresmedia to Create Content Factory Behemoth

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — In a game-changing move for Spanish-language production Telefonica, Europe’s third biggest telco, and Atresmedia, the original co-creators of “La Casa de Papel,” are uniting to create a new joint contents production giant. Aimed at gaining more scale and uniting talent relations – writers, directors and producers – the 50/50 joint venture will [...]

  • KKR-Backed German Media Conglomerate Finally Has

    KKR-Backed German Media Conglomerate Finally Has a Name: Leonine

    The KKR-backed German media company formed through the merger of Tele München Group, Universum Film, i&u TV, and Wiedemann & Berg Film finally has a name: Leonine. The company revealed its moniker Friday, saying that “Leonine” met its criteria of being associated with its home region of Bavaria and Munich, in southern Germany, and of [...]

  • Scattered Night

    San Sebastian New Directors Jihyoung Lee and Kim Sol Talk ‘Scattered Night’

    After taking the Korean Competition Grand Prize and the best acting award (Moon Seung-a) at the Jeonju Intl. Film Festival, “Scattered Night” now heads to San Sebastian’s New Directors selection. An intimate portrayal of a family whose members are deeply isolated from one another, the film follows two parents overwhelmed by their responsibilities, their own [...]

  • Johnnie To Quits Taiwan Golden Horse

    Johnnie To Quits Golden Horse Awards as China Builds Pressure

    Leading Hong Kong film maker Johnnie To has dropped out of the Golden Horse Awards, where he was set to be president of the jury deciding the prize winners. The awards, which take place in and are organized from Taiwan, have long been considered the most prestigious prizes in Chinese-language cinema. However they are currently [...]

  • Zeroville

    Film Review: 'Zeroville'

    I’m tired of hearing how some novels are “impossible to adapt.” Balderdash! Just because some books don’t lend themselves to being translated from page to screen doesn’t mean that the attempt ought not to be made. Just ask James Franco, who’s shown a speed freak’s determination to tackle some of the unlikeliest literary adaptations of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content