Marrakech Festival

The Marrakech International Film Festival takes place this week, and needless to say there is much coverage of the events by star-struck journalists on radio, television, and in print, here in Casablanca. The jury this year is composed of the irrepressible Jamel Debbouze, actors Sandrine Bonnaire and Paz Vega, and directors Yousry Nasrallah and Pan Nalin, among others. The president is Roman Polanski. The festival opened with a tribute to national treasure Mohammed Majd (The Messenger, Ali Zaoua, Syriana, Le Grand Voyage, etc.). He received a standing ovation, and appeared emotional as he gave the customary acceptance speech. Majd is, with Amina Rachid and Amidou, one of only three Moroccans to have been so honored since the festival started in 2001. (The other honorees include Omar Sharif, Claude Lelouch, John Boorman, David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola, Claudia Cardinale, Sean Connery, Youssef Chahine, Abbas Kiarostami, and a whole bunch of others.) In any case, the interesting bit is that Mohammed Majd was quoted in the 22 November issue of the newspaper Assahifa as saying, “It would be a mess if the organizers of the Marrakech film festival were Moroccans.” The quote was reprinted by a couple of magazines, but without anyone really disagreeing or taking offense. Although the festival staff is largely Moroccan, the director and several of the top organizers are French–part of the continuing attitude in this country to leave the direction of larger projects to foreigners. Pretty sad.