Robert De Niro fought back tears as he accepted his honorary award at Marrakech Film Festival from Martin Scorsese, whom he called his “friend, lifelong collaborator” and “one of the greatest blessings of (his) life.”
De Niro went on to draw parallels between his own Tribeca Film Festival and Marrakech Film Festival, both of which were born in 2001, “in the shadow of the tragic events of September 11” and have always strived to bring people together and – in the case of Marrakech fest – “serve as an inter-cultural bridge between nations.”
The Oscar-winning actor concluded his speech with a stringent criticism towards the current U.S. government.
“Sadly, in my country, we’re going through a period of grotesque version of nationalism. Not the kind of nationalism where we celebrate the quality and character of our diverse population; but rather a diabolic form of nationalism marked by greed, xenophobia and selfishness under the banner of ‘America First,'” said De Niro, who didn’t name the U.S. President in his speech.
“This stands in contrast with what brings us tonight. The arts don’t respect borders (…), the arts celebrate diversity, origins and ideas. Look at us here tonight we’re enjoying films from 29 countries; we’re united in our love for films and our common humanity,” added De Niro, drawing repeated ovations and cheers from the audience.
Scorsese introduced De Niro’s tribute with a moving, funny and vibrant speech in which he paid homage to actor’s “amazing body of work” before showing a sprawling and meticulous selection of clips – some of which were entire scenes — from De Niro’s films divided by themes cleverly titled “razor’s edge,” “touchable,” “lovestruck,” “once upon a time in America” and “king of comedy.”
Reflecting on De Niro’s unique talent, Scorsese said he had the “uncanny ability to get the viewer to empathize with some really horrific characters” and draw the viewer “to the humanity inside the monster.”
“Bob was in eight of my first 15 non-documentary features and we took on some pretty rough subjects in those pictures and Bob played some tough characters — psychopaths, sociopaths, every kind of paths you can think of (…) and he always conveys the audience not to judge.”
Scorsese also took the opportunity to pay homage to Bernardo Bertolucci. “He was and is and always will be a constant inspiration to me and I believe to so many others (…). I’m shocked and saddened about his passing.”
Both Scorsese and De Niro were greeted like rock stars by the Marrakech festival crowd and took time to sign autographs for locals outside of the gala venue.
Scorsese will also treat Marrakech Festival guests with a masterclass on Sunday.