Marrakech fest boasts global lineup

North African event emphasizes internationalism

I think we’ve been very successful in discovering new talent from world cinema,” says Marrakech Intl. Film Festival co-VP Faical Laraichi. “At a time when the planet is wracked by cultural divides and North-South or East-West tensions, I think it’s increasingly important to emphasize that we belong to one world.”

As epitomized by Michael Curtiz’s “Casablanca,” there’s something about Morocco that transcends cultural barriers, especially in times of geopolitical crisis.

With its Moorish and art deco hotels, winter sun and celebrity pull, the fledgling Marrakech fest has cannily used the “world cinema” trump card to carve out a niche.

This year’s official selection includes 32 films from five continents divided across three sections: Competition, Out-of-Competition and Coup de Coeur.

Opening film is “What Just Happened?” by jury prexy Barry Levinson. Closing pic is world poverty compilation “8,” by Jane Campion, Mira Nair, Wim Wenders and others.

Ridley Scott’s CIA thriller “Body of Lies,” which recently lensed in the kingdom, also will screen.

“Our primary goal is to show films that reveal a personal vision of contemporary events,” explains fest artistic director Bruno Barde. “This year’s selection is very eclectic, with very somber, noir perspectives, strong heroines and astonishing cinematic approaches.”

Competition titles include Caroline Link’s “A Year Ago in Winter,” Sean Baker’s “Prince of Broadway,” Mikhail Kalatozishvili’s “Wild Field” and Zhang Chi/Wang Li’s “The Shaft.”

Homages are planned for director Andrei Konchalovsky, the late Egyptian helmer Youssef Chahine, and actresses Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Yeoh, along with retrospectives of Moroccan and British cinema.

Given the World Cinema emphasis, few Moroccan films normally make the official selection, but this year there are three: “Kandisha,” “Amours voilees” and “Tu te souviens d’Adil?”

Fest co-VP Nour-Eddine Sail emphasizes the indirect benefit of the Marrakech fest for local talent: “Like Cannes, Berlin or Toronto, the existence of a major international film festival in Marrakech sheds an inevitable spotlight on the Moroccan film industry.”

Co-VP Laraichi echoes the idea. “Marrakech provides an excellent opportunity for Moroccan producers and directors to network. We don’t hand them fish on a platter, but do try to teach them how to fish.”

“Fishing lessons” this year include master classes by helmers Hugh Hudson, Konchalovsky and Agusti Villaronga inside Marrakech’s new $6.4 million film school, ESAV.

TIP SHEET

When: Nov. 14-22

Where: Marrakech, Morocco

Web: festivalmarrakech.info

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