×

Tangier taps arty roots

Cinematheque aims to become influential exhib in region

TANGIER, Morocco — Overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar, within eyeshot of Spain, Tangier has a colorful and licentious past. Bohemian writers William Burroughs and Paul Bowles made it their home, and it’s said that heiress Barbara Hutton had ancient alleys widened to accommodate her Rolls.

Now the groundbreaking Tangier Cinematheque, a renovation of the ’30s Cinema Rif, hopes to give Tangier an equally artistic future. Opening May 29, it aims to become an influential arthouse for North Africa — and a flagship project for Morocco’s derelict exhibition sector.

Designed by France’s Jean-Marc Lalo, the renovations include two screening rooms — with 380 and 60 seats — Dolby SRD Sound, DVD and DV projections, a reading room and a video library. A cafe with broadband will look out on Tangier’s main Grand Socco square, a quaint circle of whitewashed mom-and-pop shops. The cinema’s projectors can also turn outward to provide open-air screenings for 4,000 people.

“The Cinematheque sets out to be a first-class movie theater for quality independent cinema and a greenhouse for talent,” says New York writer-actor Sean Gullette, who founded the 212 Society to raise money for projects in Morocco, including the cinema.

The Cinematheque will organize workshops and commission filmmakers to work locally, using its editing suite, says programmer Yto Barrada. “We’re filling a gap,” she adds.

For Morocco’s exhibition sector, that’s some understatement. “The bane of Moroccan cinema is exhibition,” says Moroccan film institute director general Nour-eddine Sail.

Screen count has plunged to 105, many in poor condition. Tickets average $1.60, or even less for Bollywood pics, which had a 36% market share last year. DVD bootlegging has whammied attendance in 2005, reports Mohammed Layadi, owner of Marrakech’s Cine Colisee.

But 50% of Moroccans are under 25. Cultural events such as Tangier’s annual Tanjazz fest play to capacity crowds. Morocco’s first multiplex, Casablanca’s spanking Megarama 14-plex, built on a trendy seaside strip between two McDonalds, repped 26% of total B.O. in 2004. Next year, a seven-plex will bow in Marrakech, and a four- to six-screener in Agadir. The government is pushing multiplex creation, says Sail. That’s important when one crux remains snagging land permits from regional authorities.

Exhibitors hope for lighter taxation. “The best way into Morocco would be hand-in-hand with blue-chip mall constructors,” says Pablo Nogueroles, business development director at Spain’s Yelmo Cineplex.

After first-phase construction, further multiplexing may depend on curtailing piracy, and, as so much in Morocco, on economic improvement.

More Film

  • Festival director Thierry Fremaux speaks to

    Cannes: Thierry Fremaux on the Lineup's Record Number of Female Directors, American Cinema and Political Films

    The Cannes Film Festival has unveiled a lineup for its 72nd edition that includes some high-profile Hollywood titles, genre movies and films from 13 female directors. The official selection has been applauded by many for mixing established auteurs like Pedro Almodovar (“Pain and Glory”), Terrence Malick (“A Hidden Life”) and Xavier Dolan (“Matthias and Maxime”) [...]

  • RUDOLF NUREYEV 1961

    Film Review: 'Nureyev'

    It would be absurd to say that Rudolf Nureyev lived, or danced, in anyone’s shadow. He was a man who leapt and twirled and flew onstage, all muscle but light as a feather, with a freedom and force that reconfigured the human spirit. There’s no denying, though, that over the last few decades, and especially [...]

  • Die Kinder Der Toten review

    Film Review: 'Die Kinder Der Toten'

    The hills are alive (or rather, undead), with the sound of music (also mastication and the moaning of zombies) in Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska’s experimental, dialogue-free, home-movie-style riff on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Die Kinder Der Toten” (The Children of the Dead). A seminal text in Jelinek’s native Austria, the 1995 book has never been translated [...]

  • Idol review

    Film Review: 'Idol'

    How many twists can a plot undergo before it snaps? This, more than any of the many political, moral and personal conundrums that snake through “Idol,” seems to be the question writer-director Lee Su-jin is most interested in posing with his extravagantly incomprehensible sophomore feature. A seedy political thriller by way of grisly revenge movie [...]

  • The Last to See Them review

    Film Review: 'The Last to See Them'

    Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” stretches long as a late-evening shadow over Italian director Sara Summa’s feature debut “The Last to See Them.” The Italian title, “Gli Ultimi Viderli Vivere” which translates literally to “The Last to See Them Alive,” is also the heading of the opening chapter of Capote’s book. The setting is, similarly, [...]

  • Kalank

    Film Review: ‘Kalank’

    Events leading to the 1947 Partition of India serve as the forebodingly serious backdrop for the exhaustingly overextended razzmatazz of “Kalank,” writer-director Abhishek Varman’s lavish but ponderous Bollywood extravaganza, which opened in the U.S. on more than 300 screens the same day as its Indian release. Despite the preponderance of sets and costumes spectacular enough [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA: 92% of Writers Who Signed Statement of Support Have Fired Agents

    The Writers Guild of America estimated that over 92% of their members who support a new code of conduct for talent agencies have fired those representatives. Letters announcing formal termination will be delivered on Monday, the guild said in a late-hitting memo on Thursday, as most agencies will be closed tomorrow in observance of Good [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content