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MARRAKECH — Atom Egoyan headed a 23-person delegation of leading Canadian producers and directors –including Brandon Cronenberg, Michel Poulette and Stephen Dunn – on Sunday evening, at the 15th Marrakech Int’l Film Festival.

Launched in the mid-2000s, Marrakech’s country tribute has become one of the fest’s highlights, filling the stage in the main auditorium of the Palais des Congres with a galaxy of talent.
This year’s ceremony follows on the heels of the 2013 tribute to Scandinavian Cinema and last year’s tribute to Japanese Cinema.

Sarim Fassi Fihri, prexy of the Moroccan Cinema Center (CCM) presided the ceremony and highlighted the fact that both Morocco and Canada are bi-lingual countries “that beat with a single heart-”

He praised the achievements of his sister institution in Canada – the National Film Office – and referred to the multiple achievements of Canadian cinema in the international film panorama, pioneered by leading directors, from established helmers such as David Cronenberg and Denys Arcand to the generation of new talent such as Xavier Dolan who screened his first feature, “I Killed My Mother,” aged 20, in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, and then shared Cannes’ Grand Jury Prize in 2014 for “Mommy”.

Fassi Fihri also cited the Academy Awards won by top Canadian talent, including Norman Jewison’s “In the Heat of the Night,” that won the Academy Award for Best Film in 1968, Denys Arcand’s “The Barbarian Invasions,” that took the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2004 and Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Dallas Buyers Club,”  nominated for six Academy Awards and the winner of three in 2014.

Canadian films have also won top kudos at Marrakech in the past, including Jury Prize for “C.R.A.Z.Y.” by Jean-Marc Vallée in 2005 and best actress for “A Sunday in Kigali” by Robert Favreau in 2006. This year, Stephen Dunn’s “Closet Monster” is vying for plaudits in Official Competition.

After a montage of clips from the Canadian films on show in the trib – including Denys Arcand’s “The Decline of the American Empire” and “The Barbarian Invasions,” Brandon Cronenberg’s “Antiviral,” Michael Dowse’s “The F Word”, Atom Egoyan’s “Exotica”, and David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence” and “Cosmopolis” – Egoyan took the stage and began by emphasizing the fact that Canada is a country based on three nations: the indigenous population and the subsequent French and English colonies.

Egoyan emphasized the “rich and varied culture” established by the country’s indigenous peoples long before the European colonizers, and said that he considers that much of the riches of Canadian culture derive from what the settlers learned from them.

Finally, Egoyan emphasized the contribution made by recent immigrants in Canada and cited his own example, as an Armenian born in Egypt who grew up in Canada.

“We are in essence a true mosaic of different pieces,” he concluded. “Canada is the concept, the binding material which holds us together. While we are officially a bi-lingual country we are also a country pf many native tongues, as well as the new languages of our multi-cultural fabric.”
Egoyan concluded by stating that the various films shown in the retrospective – 29 films, produced between 1967 and 2015 – offer pieces that help us decipher the complex puzzle of what makes up modern-day Canada today.