Morocco’s film industry is booming.
A public funding mechanism modeled on the French system has helped boost film-making in the north African country in the past decade. And the Tangier National Film Awards along with the Marrakech Film Festival provide emerging filmmakers with a stepping stone.
“As far as Moroccan cinema is concerned, I am very confident, I think there is great energy in Moroccan cinema today, an energy which is spreading, we are lucky to live in a country which is renowned for its creative freedom, an exception in the Arab world,” says film director Narjiss Nejar.
“Moroccan cinema has experienced real growth in recent years, both production-wise and quality-wise. We have enjoyed recognition, especially at the International Film Festival in Marrakech. We need a Moroccan artist to win the festival’s Golden Star,” says Moroccan actor Driss Roukh.
With its exotic landscapes, Morocco has long been a popular destination for foreign filmmakers. The Moroccan government is welcoming towards foreign movie producers, and shooting costs are relatively low.
But home-grown cinema is a relatively new phenomenon. The first Moroccan movie was made in 1958.
“Moroccan cinema is growing fast, we now have a real cinema industry. In the past, nobody had heard about Moroccan cinema but now the industry is making a name for itself on the global market,” says Moroccan actress Naima Ilyas.
Morocco is the third biggest producer of films in Africa after Egypt and South Africa.
“I’m really pleased with the quality of Moroccan cinema because its reputation is growing fast. We now produce more than 20 films a year, that’s great, it’s extraordinary compared to what we used to produce,” says Moroccan actor and director Said Naciri.
Morocco’s film industry is heavily reliant on the government. Moroccan film-maker Kamal Kamal says that in order to remain independent the cinema industry needs to develop other sources of funding.
“It’s a question of funding. For every Moroccan film that’s made, France makes 20, and the US makes one hundred. Moroccan cinema is also an industry. Of course, there’s the creative part, but it’s an industry, and an industry requires funding to survive,” says Kamal Kamal.
But Morocco’s growing film production has not helped save its cinema theatres – many of which have closed down. Out of 350 nationwide, only 50 are still open.
“We produce 20 films a year, but cinema theatres are closing down, there is a limited audience and that’s the problem. But production is growing, and so is the quality of our films, the cinema industry is evolving, both technically and with regards to content,” says film director Latif Lehlou.
Today, Moroccan film-makers face a dilemma, forced to chose between pleasing an audience that just wants to be entertained, and a desire to tackle Moroccan society’s more serious issues. As cinemas continue to shut down, production companies are having to turn to national television to sell their films.
“Morocco’s film festivals are a chance for artists and actors in the cinema industry to meet and talks about their work and projects and the reality of a booming film production,” says euronews’ correspondent in Marrakech Kawtar Wakil.