By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 11/20/2005 | 11:47 am
Marrakech--- 'Saratan' by director Ernest Abdyshaparov (Kirghizistan) has won the Golden Star prize at the Marrakech International Film Festival, held in the Moroccan southern city on Nov. 11-19. The closing ceremony of the festival was also marked by a special tribute to the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami.
The director of 'Saratan' was handed over the trophy of the festival's Grand Prize by Italian actress Monica Bellucci. The film is a set of stories about the inhabitants of Kirghiz village during the ten years following the fall of the Soviet Union. The film talks about tragicomic tales of politics, tradition, modernity, pride and honour.
The best male acting prize went to Daniel Day-Lewis for his role in 'The Ballad of Jack and Rose'; the best female acting prize went to Shirley Henderson for her role in 'Frozen', and the Jury's prize went to both 'Crazy'(Canada) and 'Bab el-Makam' (Syria).
The closing ceremony was also marked by a vibrant tribute to Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, one of the true masters of contemporary cinema. He was handed over the trophy by legendary US filmmaker Martin Scorsese.
Kiarostami has won not only the admiration of audiences and critics worldwide, but also the support of directors as distinguished as Jean-Luc Godard, Nanni Moretti, Chris Marker, and Akira Kurosawa, who has said about Kiarostami's "extraordinary" films: "Words cannot describe my feelings about them and I simply advise you to see his films... When Satyajit Ray passed on, I was very depressed. But after seeing Kiarostami's films, I thanked God for giving us just the right person to take his place."
Kiarostami emerged in the West as a major filmmaker in the early '90s, with films like 'close-Up' and 'Through the Olive Trees'. Kiarostami has made more than 20 films, including fiction features, educational shorts, feature-length documentaries, and a series of films for television. He has also written screenplays for other directors, most notably The White Balloon, for his former assistant Jafar Panahi.
He was honored with a retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York, and he came to the Cannes Film Festival at the eleventh hour with Taste of Cherry, only to walk away with the Grand Prize, becoming the first Iranian director ever to win the Palme d'Or.
The festival has also paid tribute to other acclaimed directors and actors such as Martin Scorsese (US), Amidou (Morocco), Yash Chopra (India), and Saif Ali Khan (India).
The film festival has also paid a special tribute to the Spanish Cinema with the screening of a total of 41 films, emblematic of the Spanish film production of the past fifty years.
The festival has attracted a fair smattering of European and Asian stars, including Catherine Deneuve, Judi Dench, Terence Stamp, Daniel Day-Lewis, Monica Bellucci, Yash Chopra, Martin Scorsese, Vincent Cassel, Maggie Cheung and Rebecca Miller.
The festival opened on Nov 11 with a screening of Stephen Frears' 'Mrs. Henderson Presents' and closed on Nov 19 with Enrico Oldoini's 'Thirteen at a Table' (Tredici a tavola).
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 11/15/2005 | 5:45 pm
Marrakech---At the age of 25, controversial Tunisian actress Hend Sabri is already a member of a distinguished jury who will select the best film to be awarded the Golden Star at the Marrakech International Film Festival currently being held in the Moroccan southern city on Nov. 11-19.
“It is my first experience to be member of a jury and I am so proud to be among a distinguished one,” Hind Sabri told Morocco Times.
The young talented actress added that she “is so happy to be selected to come to Marrakech and that she highly respects the jury from whom she is learning a lot.” she added.
Members of the jury include, along with Hend Sabri, Annaud (president of the jury), Abdelkebir Khatibi (Moroccan writer), Deepa Mehta (Indian director), Stefania Rocca (Italian actress), Leonor Silveira (Portugeese actress), Idrissa Ouedraogo (director from Burkina Faso) and Mary Sweeney (American screenwriter, producer and editor).
The Marrakech festival is featuring 124 films, 16 in competition, including 10 first or second features, from 15 different countries.
Born in Tunisia in the early 1980s, Sabri made her debut at the age of 14 in "The Silences of the Palace," Moufida Tlatli's much celebrated film about women trapped in a world of male dominance.
After a series of roles in Tunisian films, controversial Egyptian director Inas Al Daghidi cast her in "The Diary of a Teenager," a candid look at the world of a young Egyptian teenager.
Critics have attacked Sabri for her 'risky roles' involving passionate love scenes. But Sabri insisted that moviegoers are more concerned about story and performance than labels critics create to pigeon-hole actors and movies.
Sabri considers herself to be open minded and daring. Her last few films did not contain the kind of intimate scenes she became known for since moving to Egypt in 2000. Her recent films were critically acclaimed and successful.
She featured along with Hani Salama and Tamer Hosni in "A State of Love". The film topped the Egyptian box office and established her as one of Egypt's premier young actresses.
Despite her success in the cinema, Sabri's dreams were bigger than what she had already accomplished; one of her many goals was to finish her studies in Law and obtain her Masters Degree.
Hend Sabri has made successful new movies and secured her place among the many stars in the show business. In 2003, the actress played a leading role in Ahla Al-Awkat. . The movie was a big success and featured a number of female stars; like Hanan Turk, Mena Shalaby.
She has also recently won a Best Actress award for her role in "The Best of Times" at an Egyptian Film Festival.
Sabri said “she is happy to win an award for the fourth time for her role in "The Best of Times".
Hend also featured in 'Halet Hob' alongside actor Hani Salama, singer/actor Tamer Housny, Donya and Zeina.
Sabri's latest project is a starring role alongside Adel Imam, Nour El Sherif, Yusra and Ilham Shahine in Jacobian's Building."
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 11/19/2005 | 5:12 pm
Marrakech---Algerian director Bourlem Guerdjou's new film, 'Zaina, rider of the Atlas', has been screened in Marrakech popular square Jamaa Lafna, grouping thousands of viewers.
The screening of this big-hearted entertaining adventure was scheduled during the 8-day Marrakech International Film Festival, which will close on Saturday with a special one thousand and one night evening.
'Zaina, rider of the Atlas', which had not met the expectations of its director and producer when screened in France due to the sociopolitical crisis the 'Molière country' has endured lately (France riots), has received warm welcome and admiration in Morocco.
Bourlem Guerdjou, the film director told Morocco Times that the movie is a turning point of his life since his ambition has always been to shoot an adventure film about emancipation and self-affirmation.
“Zaina, rider of the Atlas recounts a generous, universal fable directed at all audiences,” said Guerdjou.
This out-of competition film revolves around a trio of characters, two men and a girl: three people, who are stirred by strong emotions, but share a common destiny.
“The challenge of bringing this project to life will be to listen to the heartbeat of the intimate interactions between the characters. Another challenge lies in the spectacle element. In this jubilant adventure, chase sequences, uncommon battles and surprise attacks link up in a sustained rhythm,” Guerdjou explained.
The beauty and brutality of Morocco's Atlas Mountains, the complexity and rectitude of human relationships make Zaina, rider of the Atlas at the juncture of two traditions, the western and oriental tale. The treatment of the image of the film better expresses this union.
As its director described it, Zaina, rider of the Atlas is a combination of the lyricism of the western with the magic of the fairytale.
“This is finally a profoundly humanistic film. It portrays characters who confront one another. Proud, these characters fight in dignity for their freedom and refuse to enslave themselves,” explains Guerdjou.
Zaina, rider of the Atlas tells the story of Mustapha, a nomad, accompanied by the best horsemen from his tribe in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. He has to lead a caravan of precious thoroughbreds to Marrakech in time to take part in the most prestigious race, the Agdal.
But before confronting the daunting challenge of crossing the Atlas Mountains, the nomads stopped in a town to pick-up Mustapha's wild 11-year daughter, Zaina, whom Mustapha did not even know she existed until the recent death of her mother.
The tension between Zaina and Mustapha is palpable from the start, each as stubborn and wary as the other. The nomads and the child flee into the awesome immensity of the Atlas landscape with Omar El- Mansour (her father's rival) and his men hot on their tracks.
Over the course of this dogged pursuit across a hostile landscape, father and daughter have gradually become attached and began to understand each other.
Zaina who, heartened by Mustapha's passion for horses, will test her own talent by running the Agdal herself, vanquishing Omar's bitterness and hatred, and winning over the praise and admiration of her people.
Most who have seen Zaina, rider of the Atlas say it is an entertaining big-hearted adventure film. It underscores the stages of an apprenticeship and revolves around the theme of legacy and filial love. It is also a human contemporary film about emancipation and self-affirmation.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 11/22/2005 | 8:34 pm
Marrakech -- Syrian director Mohammad Malas, who has won the Jury Prize for his film "Bab El Makam" at the fifth Marrakech International Film Festival, held on Nov. 11-19 in the Moroccan southern city, said that the Syrian Cinema has not progressed for more than 35 years up to now.
“It is a sector which is still governed by the State. This means that we produce no more than 2 films a year. The private sector doesn't invest in the Cinema, which leads many directors, including me, to seek foreign production and assistance,” Malas told reporters in Marrakech.
The Qatari-based Al Jazeera channel has reported that the film has not been screened in Syria because the authorities have prevented it, though a statement from the Syrian Cinema General Establishment published in the online Arabic News service denied this.
The statement said Malas had never applied for permission to screen it in the first place.
"The film has got the approval of the texts reading committee at the Ministry of Culture and that means it has got the approval on production and shooting in Syria," explained the statement.
Malas also denied Al-Jazeera's statement. He told Morocco Times that "Bab El Makam" is not yet screened in Syria. He thinks, but not sure, that the Syrian authorities will allow him present his film at home.
Malas's film, "Bab El Makam", was in competition along with 16 others from 15 different countries at the Marrakech Film Festival. The controversial Syrian director said he is so happy to get awarded for a film that describes contradictions within the Syrian society.
'I am very grateful to the Marrakech Film Festival, which gave me the opportunity to meet renowned filmmakers as Martin Scorsese and Abbas Kiarostami,” Malas told Morocco Times.
Malas who had no previous knowledge of the existence of the Marrakech Film Festival before he came to Morocco, said he was so pleased with the organisation of the latter and the quality of the films in competition.
"Bab El Makam" tells the story of Imane, a young girl, who struggles against a society which does not accept her love for singing.
In the film, Malas deals with the themes of music, censorship and lack of acceptance in Syrian society. The film is based on the true story of the killing of a Syrian woman, who passionately loved her family and the music of Umm Kalthoum - a passion mistaken for a love affair with another man.
“The Syrian society has lost many values and is still stick to certain traditions that may appear inhuman,” Malas told Morocco Times.
“That's why I wanted to react by discussing the story of a woman who will be assassinated for the simple love of Umm Kalthoum. The crime of honour is not what interested me, but rather the harsh reality of the Syrian society that needs to be changed,” he added.
Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y., Canada's Oscar candidate for best foreign film, which talks about five brothers growing up in Quebec from the 1960s to the 1980s, shared the jury prize with Malas's film, "Bab El Makan".
C.R.A.Z.Y. won Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival and is nominated for the Screen International Award at the European Film Festival, which will be held in December.
The film has garnered critical praise in North America and had been a favourite at Marrakech, which seeks to bring together the best of east and west.
Saratan, a Kyrgyz film by Ernest Abdyshaparov, won the Gold Star, the top prize of the festival. Daniel Day Lewis won the best actor award for The Ballad of Jack and Rose. Shirley Henderson was named best actress for Frozen.
US director Martin Scorsese, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, and Moroccan actor Amidou have won a lifetime achievement award at the festival.
The Marrakech festival has been seeking to raise its profile and this year it has attracted more European and North American stars.
The films screened in the festival represented Spain, France, Syria, Canada, GB, China, Denmark, Belgium, USA, Finland, Kirghizistan, Germany, the Czech Republic and Morocco.
This 5th festival also paid tribute to the Spanish cinema, featuring a total of 41 feature films among the best shot in the latest 50 years.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 11/14/2005 | 9:43 am
Marrakech---Moroccan director Moumen Smihi's 'El Ayel' (The Kid) had its premier on Sunday at the Marrakech International Film Festival, currently being held in the southern Moroccan city from Nov. 11-19.
'El Ayel', as its director described it, is a film that explores the concept of religion in modern society.
“My film explores themes of infantile perversion, colonial trauma, cinema, sacrilege and modernity,” said Smihi during a briefing he held with the press after the screening of his film.
The film tells the story of a moody ten year-old boy, Mohammed Larbi, who faced many troubles at his early age. He has endured many illnesses, a terrible circumcision, harsh religious catechism, and European Jansenism.
Larbi likes freedom and prefers street life to the 'cloistered' family environment or the classroom. He was mischievous with other children in his neighbourhood. He has even committed the ultimate act of subversion, sacrilege. The film simply describes the life and situation of Muslim children in Morocco.
Most events happened in Tangier, in northern Morocco, during the colonisation era of the 1950's.
The film also portrays the character of a religious father who invites his children to use reason and logic while trying to analyse some religious concepts. He never abuses them and through modern education. He invites them to fundamentally explore ethical concepts and pursuits: the imaginary sacrilege; irreverence and insubordination; poetry; and music.
“This is the gist of the film,” said the film's director.
However, the film, which stars Abdesslam Begdouri, Said Amel and Bahija el Hachami, is full of narration which distracts the viewers from following the flow of events in the film.
Smihi's 'El Ayel' is the only Moroccan film in competition among 15 others contesting the festival's Golden star prize, which will be handed over to the best movie next Saturday.
Moumen Smihi has a record of 6 short films, and 8 feature length films.