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Moroccan film students get schooled

School backed by Dar Bellarj Foundation, Caddi Ayad University

MARRAKECH — A ride to the just-opened Ecole Superieure des Arts Visuels, Morocco’s first bona fide film school, is like watching a Moroccan tourist vid in fast-foward.

The scooter driver careens from Marrakech’s Jamaa El Fna Square through the marketplace, down alleys, past veiled women, lantern, fruit and shoe shops, through smells of wood fire, sausages and sardines.

After a jolting trip through Morocco’s traditional past, the scooter jerks to a stop at a cool, quiet courtyard, home to the new school, which holds some keys to Morocco’s film future.

Much of Morocco is still dirt poor. A March poll suggested ominously large gains in next year’s general elections for the conservative Islamic opposition. Pushing modernization, Morocco’s government has improved access to higher education, and launched a massive City Without Slums housing project.

Morocco growing indie TV sector will also need trained workers.

School is backed by 5 million Euros ($6.4 million) from the cultural org Dar Bellarj Foundation and by the city’s Caddi Ayad University.

The graduate-level program launched in September with a course including one year of general studies, then three years of specialized training in image, sound, editing, and direction. A major in graphic design and multimedia will be offered starting next year. The first boasts 18 pioneering film students who hope to tell their stories with films that also comment on social issues.

The school hopes to bring professional film training to Morocco and beyond.

“We’re training trainers, teaching young professionals,” says director Vincent Melilli. “I’d like to make this a maison des cineastes where people meet, talk, create,” he adds.

So far most staff are imported. Melilli would like more Sub-Saharan students: There’s just one, from Cameroon, this year.

Short courses for professionals and producers are also in the planning stages. A new, four-story facility near the city’s main universities will open next year.

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