The Atlantic visits the Marrakech International Film Festival and reflects on Morocco’s movie legacy and self-identity:
I was lucky to attend the Marrakech International Film Festival last week. Though only in its 15th year, it has quickly risen to prominence, in part thanks to the large number of films shot in Morocco over the years—from Orson Welles’s Othello all the way back in 1949 to Lawrence of Arabia, The Last Temptation of Christ, Gladiator, Spectre, and many, many others—and in part thanks to the fact that Marrakech is a highly desirable tourist destination.
The festival thus attracts a strong array of films—I saw good ones by directors Cesc Gay, Julien Leclercq, and Sergio Castellitto—and some intriguing guests. Among those receiving tributes this year were Bill Murray, South Korean director Park Chan-wook (with whom I spoke briefly), and Willem Dafoe. (The last was unfortunately not in attendance: more on this in a moment.)
Yet looming over questions of cinema throughout the week were the issues of terrorism and anti-Muslim bias.
Morocco prides itself on being a force for pluralism in the Islamic world, and my limited time there—I claim no greater expertise—tended to corroborate that distinction. Marrakech was a welcoming locale (again, tourism is key) with Western-style bars, hotels, and casinos very much in evidence. Wandering the city, one saw many local women with their heads covered, and many without. (There appeared to be a strong generational correlation.) The female festival attendees with whom I spent time did not feel remotely harassed or unsafe—less so, probably, than in many European or even American cities. Security efforts (metal detectors, police, etc.) were in place at the festival’s major locations but, again, no more so than would likely have been the case in other cities across the globe…[FULL STORY]