Cinémathèque de Tanger Opens

Regular readers of this blog may be familiar with photographer Yto Barrada’s work, which I have mentioned on several occasions. I finally had the chance to meet her in person this past weekend, when I traveled to Tangier to attend the opening of the Cinémathèque de Tanger, a project that Barrada has been working on for several years. Barrada bought the old Cinéma Rif, which is located on the historic Gran Socco plaza, in 2001 and, after years of planning and fund-raising, closed it down in 2004 for renovations. The Cinéma Rif has now reopened, and has been completely modernized, with new seats, new screen, new projection equipment, but all the charm of the original metalwork on the box office window, the original lamps in the café area, the movie posters–and the same staff. In addition to the main theatre, Barrada also conceived of the place as a cinematheque, and has added a small theatre, which will be used for retrospectives as well as workshops, a library, a videotheque, and an editing room. (You can view many candid photos of the opening, and of other CDT activities, here.)

Barrada chose to inaugurate the new Cinéma Rif with the work of a Moroccan filmmaker, the lovely and amazing Farida Benlyazid, whose latest film, Juanita de Tanger, has been making the festival rounds. (The picture is based on the novel by Angel Vasquez, La Vida Perra de Juanita Narboni.) Benlyazid was quite emotional when she took the stage: She remembered coming to the then-dilapidated theater to watch Abdel Halim films back in the sixties, and she spoke of what this new theater will mean for her hometown. In the audience was another original patron of the place–Tahar Ben Jelloun. It was a Tangerine evening.