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MENAFN - Arab Times - 12/12/2016
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(MENAFN - Arab Times) Afghanistan actress Fereshteh Hosseini holds her trophy after receiving the best actress award during the 14th edition of the Marrakech International Film festival, on Dec 10, in Marrakech. (AFP)

Another important aspect of this year's edition was a strong focus on the interplay between directors and actors, with several guests talking about how directors can get the best from their actors. Two French actress legends attended this year's edition — Isabelle Huppert and Isabelle Adjani. Huppert has won three major US best actress awards over recent weeks and is a potential contender for an Academy Award nomination for 'Elle'.

Adjani has won more Cesar best actress plaudits than any other French actress and during her career tribute said that great directors are like astronomers, capturing a unique light from the stars that they work with.

Marrakech's artistic director Bruno Barde, said that 'each year's festival is like a script that I have written. There is a link between everything. This year we find a deep spirit of resistance in the films we're screening. The films emphasise freedom of choice and the freedom to love. The choice of religion, partner, sexuality, country. The desire of how we want to live our lives'.

Barde considers that under Bela Tarr's presidency, there was a strong authorial imprint on Marrakech 2016, including the aforementioned helmers and directors such as Bille August, Lisandro Alonso, and Bruno Dumont.

'Over recent years Marrakech has reinforced its positioning as the 'home of filmmakers', he beamed.

The Russian tribute also offered the chance to highlight the achievements of some of the most important directors in the history of cinema, such as Eisenstein, Tarkovsky and Sokurov.

'Russia is a pivotal player on the world stage', explained Barde. 'Russia has a bit of everything. It has given to some of the greatest artists to the world, in the fields of music, painting, literature and cinema. Our vocation at Marrakech is to welcome all cultures. They enrich us. One of the key problems facing the world at present is acceptance of the other — from all parts of the world. Art plays a key role in this process. It shows the path to welcoming others'.

Many of Morocco's best-known filmmakers will be releasing films in 2017 which are expected to have a significant impact on both the international festival circuit and the domestic box office.

Noureddine Lakhmari will complete the trilogy formed by 'Casanegra' and 'Zero', with 'Burn Out' which is the first major Moroccan production backed by Dubai-based VOD platform, icflix, and is being readied for Berlin.

Revisits

Nabil Ayouch ('Horses') will release 'Razzia', an international co-production set in modern day Casablanca, that revisits themes related to the 1942 Humphrey Bogart classic 'Casablanca' and has a soundtrack featuring tracks from Queen. The picture is produced by Bruno Nahon's Unite de Production in Paris, Ayouch's Casablanca-based production house, Ali'N Productions, Les Films du Nouveau Monde, France 3 Cinema, and Belgium's Artemis Productions.

Faouzi Bensaidi ('Death for Sale') will release 'Volubilis', a love story, set in Bensaidi's home town of Meknes, between a shopping mall guard and a maid in a rich condominium. Bensaidi says that his aim with the film is to explore how love can exist in modern Morocco where ocial forces are increasingly pushing people apart.

Narjiss Nejjar ('Cry No More') is completing 'Apatride', set against the background of the deportation of 45,000 Moroccan families from Algeria in 1975. The pic is a Moroccan-French co-production, coordinated by Moroccan producer Lamia Chraibi, producing via her Paris-based company Moon & Deal and her Casablanca-based outfit La Prod. The pic has received support from the Moroccan Cinema Center, the Doha Film Institute and will be presented at the Dubai Film Connection.

The director of short film 'Short Life', which won multiple festival kudos, Adil el Fadili is prepping his first feature, 'My Dad Isn't Dead', about a 9-year old boy with a vivid imagination, living in 1955 during Morocco's 'years of lead'. After the death of his mother, he lives with his father in a fun fair, but after being separated from him he is magically transported into tableaux pictures, on a quest to reunite with his dad. Fadili's rich imagination is reminiscent of the fantasy world of French helmer, Jean Pierre Jeunet, who met with Fadili during the Marrakech fest last year and after seeing his short wrote to him encouraging him to direct a feature.

Leila Kilani ('On the Edge') is also developing a new feature, to be released in 2017.

Sarim Fassi Fihri, president of the Moroccan Cinema Center (CCM) explains that several of these projects, including the films by Lakhmari, Nejjar and Fadili — were involved in an intensive three-month scriptwriting development program between 2015 and 2016, which meant that their release has been delayed to 2017.

The CCM is currently upping its support to new filmmakers via the Cinecoles short film competition which is run by the Marrakech Festival Foundation. It will now organize two competitions per year, with scholarships for the winners to study abroad.

Also:

LOS ANGELES: Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi ('A Separation') (pictured), French auteur Bruno Dumont ('Slack Bay'), and Cambodian-born documentary filmmaker Rithy Panh ('Exile') are the first recruited masters for the Doha Film Institute's 2017 Qumra event which blends creative workshop and festival elements.

'I think it's great for us to have this diversity', said DFI artistic advisor Elia Suleiman in an interview. He noted that being able to infuse young Arab directors with 'Farhadi's hyper-real visual interpretation of social settings; Dumont's masterful and painterly cinematic tableaux; and Panh's tender, personal explorations of past cruelties' will help Qumra 'persist as a space of surprise and a place of discovery, thereby preserving its identity as the hidden side of the creative process'.

As part of their role each Qumra Master will participate in a series of masterclasses, workshops and one-on-one sessions with directors of participating DFI-backed projects and industry professionals from around the world, and also screen one of their pics for Doha audiences.

Two more Qumra Masters will be announced during the Berlin Film Festival.

Qumra, which is an Arab word believed to be the origin of the word 'camera', is a unique format event conceived to help foster first and second works by mostly Arab directors. Last year it was centered around 33 projects, mostly from the Arab world.

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