Why it pays to be at the Marrakech International Film Festival

The Marrakech International Film Festival ended on Saturday evening with the film by Iranian director Emad Aleebrahim Dehkordi A story of Shemroon winning the festival’s grand prize, the Gold Star.

Located in Tehran, A story of Shemroon tells the story of two brothers and how they deal with love, loss and rage.

Between tender moments of brotherhood, the film creates moments of high tension as the older brother, furious at his father for squandering the family savings, gets sucked into the drug trade, and the younger, who is undergoing training of professional fighter, pays the price for it.

The festival only considers directors’ first and second feature films for awards. And of the 14 films in competition this year, six are female directors.

The seven-member festival jury, headed by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, awarded the prize for best direction to Swiss director Carmen Jaquier for Thunder, a story set in 1900 about a 17-year-old girl’s desires and religious repression.

And the jury prize for best director went to the Portuguese Cristèle Alves Meira for her feature film Alma Viva and to Maryam Touzani for The blue caftanwhich is also Morocco’s entry for the Oscars this year.

The award for Best Performance by an Actress went to Choi Seung-Yoon for her role as a young Korean single mother in Canada in director Anthony Shim’s film riceboy sleeps. And Indonesian actor Arswendy Bening Swara won Best Actor for his role as Purna, a retired general running for mayor in director Makbul Mubarak’s film, Autobiography.

The nine-day Marrakech International Film Festival, which opened on November 11 by honoring Ranveer Singh with a trophy and the screening of three of his films, closed with a touching tribute to Tilda Swinton.

Ruben Ostlund, director of triangle of sadness, did the honors by calling Swinton “the David Bowie of cinema” for his ability to shapeshift with each role. The festival pulled off a pleasant surprise by flying Swinton’s daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, to present her with the Golden Star trophy. Mama Swinton had tears in her eyes and seemed genuinely moved by the gesture.

“It’s hard, it’s not easy”

The Marrakech Film Festival, now in its 19th year, presented an impressive line-up of 76 films from 33 countries and opened with Oscar-winning director Guillermo Del Toro’s new animated film, Pinocchio. But other than that, the festival didn’t have any major film premieres.

Yet each year the festival attracts the best actors, directors and stars from around the world, including Hollywood, Bollywood, Africa, the Arab world and Europe.

On Saturday, the hour-long closing ceremony at the festival’s main site, the Palais des Congrès, was like a callback for movie stars.

British actors Jeremy Irons and Tilda Swinton, double Palme d’Or winner Ruben Ostlund, Paolo Sorrentino whose 2013 film, The great beautyOscar-winning Vanessa Kirby (who plays Princess Margaret in the Netflix series The crown), German actress Diane Kruger who starred in Troy and Inglourious BasterdsAustralian director Justin Kurzel whose 2011 film snow towna gruesome real-life crime drama, remains his most recognized work, superb Lebanese director and actress Nadine Labaki, French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim who recently played Charles Sobhraj in The snakeand director Laïla Marrakchi whose 2005 film, Moroccoabout an affair between a Muslim girl and a Jewish boy, remains one of Morocco’s most beloved and controversial films, were on stage at the same time.

During its nine days, the festival organized two conversations a day, in particular with the Iranian director Ashgar Farhadi, the American director Jim Jarmusch, the young French director Julia Ducournau who won the Palme d’or for Titaniumactress Julia Delphy and Ranveer Singh, who also entertained a huge crowd in Marrakech’s iconic Jemaa el Fna Square.

“It’s hard, it’s not easy,” explains Melita Toscan du Plantier, director of the Marrakech International Film Festival, to bring all these cinema celebrities to Marrakech at the same time.

“There are a lot of festivals in the world and we are coming to the end of the year, after all the film festivals are over. So you have to fight to have people, to have films… They all come to Marrakech because I guess I find the right way to ask them [laughs]. But also because Marrakech is a city that is always in the minds of foreigners, as a very exotic city,” she said. Rolling Stone India.

‘We never paid Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone. We only pay for the tickets and the room’

Melita leads the festival like an Indian mother would organize her daughter’s wedding.

She organizes all the meetings, checks the logistics, selects the members of the jury, to whom the festival will pay tribute, and even the films to be screened. “From dinners to logistics, cars, hotels, who stays where, I look at everything. I like when everything is really perfect. I think people see that and they really liked it too… It’s not like India, I’m sorry. I have been to Mumbai so many times and remember being invited by Shah Rukh Khan to the Filmfare Awards. It was so funny because there were strings everywhere, the rows were empty, the stars were walking around during the speeches,” she said.

Morocco, a nation of 37 million people, has around 45 cinema screens. And although it is among the top three African countries (along with South Africa and Egypt) in terms of the number of films produced, the annual average is around 20-25 films.

However, the Marrakech Film Festival, whose patron is Prince Moulay Rachid, is run efficiently and with the aim of encouraging guests to meet, attend screenings and interact with film lovers and journalists. on movies.

Delays are rare and brief. The staff is extremely courteous, and regular shuttles run to various venues, including the magnificent Yves Saint Laurent Museum, where contemporary and restored classics from the Arab world and the African continent are screened in the “11th continent” category.

“The difference between us and some other festivals in Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is that we never pay anyone. All the Indian stars who have come to the Marrakech Film Festival have never been paid, never. We never paid Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone. We only pay for tickets and room,” Melita said.

The festival punches above its weight due to the goodwill ambassadors it has nurtured over the years, including Martin Scorsese, who is the festival’s “godfather”. “He came to the festival seven times and he wanted to come this year too, but he couldn’t because he was celebrating his 80th birthday. So when you have ambassadors like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, James Grey, and now Tilda Swindon… [it helps]Melita said.

Asgar Farhadi (right) during one of the conversations. Photo: IMFF

‘Marrakech traps you… You keep wanting to come back’

Marrakech is called the red city because of the color of its buildings, which is a bit darker than the pink theme of Jaipur. And there’s something about the city sky that looks like an ever-changing web of color with tall palm trees gently swaying in a cool breeze, alfresco dining, yellow “little” taxis and two white camels standing like sentinels at the entrance to the old city, Medina. It also has some of the best hotels and spas in the world and the festival puts its brightest and most stylish foot forward as it rolls out the red carpet for its guests.

All the actors and directors invited by the festival stay at the La Mamounia hotel at Rs 43,000 per night. The 32-acre, 99-year-old property is an island of laid-back luxury and indulgence with bits of history scattered all around. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stayed at the hotel every winter to “recharge his batteries” and paint. Alfred Hitchcock shot several scenes of The man who knew too much here and Paul McCartney composed the song “Mamunia” here in 1973.

Besides the hospitality, what also attracts actors and directors is the relaxed atmosphere where they can, perhaps, spend a few hours in a hammam and get together over a drink.

“We have no commercial pressure. For example, in Cannes or at the Venice Film Festival, it is commercially important that films have the best international reviews because if in Cannes a screening goes badly, your film is dead. So all these huge festivals are very stressful. In Marrakech, we don’t have that. Stars, when they come here, often don’t have bodyguards except Indian stars because they are like God here. I’ve seen so many American stars walking around without bodyguards, including Keanu Reeves, Robert De Niro. I mean, it’s really relaxed, it’s really zen, and they have a lot of time to meet, to chat, which they don’t have in Cannes because they’re all in different hotels, and everybody’s rushing, everybody’s stressed,” Melita says, then adds, “I’m also known for bringing people together.”

What she means is her talent for knowing who wants to meet who.

In 2013, she called Anurag Kashyap and asked him if he would like to spend 12 days with Martin Scorsese, Marion Cotillard and Paolo Sorrentino as part of the jury. “He almost cried,” she said.

Since then, Kashyap calls her “my goddess” and Martin Scorsese is “Marty”. He was back in Marrakech this year, with his new film, almost love, which will hit Indian theaters next year. The film was screened in the Jemaa el Fna square.

“Marrakesh traps you. You cannot leave. You keep wanting to come back,” said Moroccan journalist Said el Mazouari.

The magic of Marrakech is a decoy. But so are the delicious surprises Melita and her team have in store.

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