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Industry Report: Focus: Africa

Morocco wants to revive the magic of cinema


- Morocco, whose landscapes have been the setting for many masterpieces such as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator or The Man Who Knew Too Much, celebrates this week with the film FIFM, which ends Saturday.

But far from the red carpet has seen Lea Drucker, Olga Kurylenko, Radu Mihaileanu, Roschdy Zem or the foreman of this 11th edition, Emir Kusturica, the cinema is in crisis in Morocco, as the entire African continent.

In 1987, cinemas accounted for 37 million entries. They struggle to exceed three million two decades later, according to the Moroccan Chamber of operators of movie theaters.

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Satellite channels and pirated DVDs, sold illegally at every street corner for 5 to 10 dirhams (less than a dollar), attracted viewers outside the cinema.

The cinemas are inadequate, often consisting of a single room in 1000 or 2000 places, when the audience would rather have a choice of films in theaters smaller multiplexes.

The huge rooms are now abandoned Rabat as a refuge for those seeking a little privacy to smoke or have their girlfriend.

To reinvigorate the industry, the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre (CCM), the public body that manages the cinema, from the filming permits to the grant, in the private sector, given the limited resources of the state.

“Two multiplexes in Rabat, two in Tangier (north), one in Fez (center) and another in Agadir (south) will be built in 2012 thanks to the contribution of the private sector,” he told AFP Noureddine Sail, the Director of CCM, outside the Marrakech International Film Festival, where he is vice president delegate.

“To convince the private sector to invest in the film, we have an argument simple and clear: there is a real audience, a strong demand for film, including Morocco,” said the director of CCM, convinced that the Moroccans, especially youngest of them, like the movies.

The last festival of documentary cinema was packed with a young audience in the huge theater Mohammed V in Rabat in November, AFP noted.

Some rooms just need a facelift. “This mission was entrusted to the municipalities that have agreed to renovate and adapt the old movie theaters, often abandoned,” said Sail.

Of 357 rooms in the 1990s, Morocco in currently less than one third, including 23 rooms complexes of Marrakech and Casablanca, according to the CCM.

The government has recently committed $ 18 million dirhams (1.6 million) per year at a rate of 900,000 dirhams per room. A “paltry sum that will perhaps repeat the seats and paint,” says Abdelhamid Marrakchi, Speaker of the House of Moroccan cinema.

Only Casablanca and Marrakech offer multiplexes without disseminate homegrown filmmakers.

In Megarama, which has 14 rooms in Casablanca, you can see the latest releases American or French, as the hit comedy “untouchables”, but there is no Moroccan film is projected.

Multiplexes, which the tickets are quite expensive, are mostly frequented by middle and upper classes who appreciate the “blockbusters” foreigners.

To see a movie in the country, movie lovers have little choice than the old rooms arthouse, managed by the CCM, as the “7th Art”, one of the few theaters still existing in Rabat, the capital.

To sell his new film, Morocco has multiple festivals including the Marrakech is the most famous. It has two Moroccan films to the opening and closing: The lover of the Rif the director Narjiss Nejjar and Death for Sale by Faouzi Bensaïdi, award-winning author in Cannes.

Morocco has produced 23 feature films in 2011, told the AFP Mr Sail. “If four or five are good, the bet is won.”


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