That I’m excited about the upcoming Marrakech Film Festival — which will take over the Moroccan city from November 30th to December 8th — is no secret. Apart from loving this country of spices, colors and incredible food, the Marrakech Film Fest has always held a special kind mystique for me. And with their new reorganized staff and crew, some of the most prestigious names in cinema circles (see all of them listed at the bottom of this post) my excitement has only grown stronger.
But this morning, when the festival announced director James Gray at the helm of their Competition Jury, I burst into downright joy. Let me explain.
Gray has long been a favorite filmmaker of mine. Since his award winning ‘Little Odessa’, his films has struck a chord — both emotionally and, very important for cinema, visually. And that culminated in a high note for me personally when I watched ‘Two Lovers’ starring Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow. Inspired by Luchino Visconti’s ‘Le Notti Bianche’ which was in turn taken from the short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky ‘White Nights’, ‘Two Lovers’ felt wonderfully honest set in New York City’s Brighton Beach neighborhood and while I will always love Visconti’s version, I can’t help but hold a very special place in my heart for Gray’s touching, haunting film. And his images. Some films you love despite their photography, Gray’s films you love because of how magnificently they are shot.
So, this is very selfish of course, I look forward to his viewpoint and the way he will judge new cinema in Marrakech. Because, as is pointed out in their latest press release, “The festival's Competition selection will consist of 14 first and second films chosen by a programming committee headed by new artistic director Christoph Terhechte. The top prize Golden Star - Grand Prix is endowed with a cash prize of 50,000 USD. Other prizes include Jury Prize, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director.”
Now I leave you with the organization behind the festival, which took a year off in 2017 to regroup and reorganize and is now coming back for this edition bigger and better than ever.
The organization of the FIFM is entrusted to the following teams of the Foundation:
Ms. Melita Toscan du Plantier, director of public relations in 2001 and 2002 and director of the Festival from 2003 to 2016 has been appointed advisor to His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid, President of the Fondation du Festival International du Film de Marrakech.
The artistic direction and the programming have been entrusted to a prestigious team coming from the biggest festivals:
Christoph Terhechte has been appointed artistic director. He chaired the Forum section of the Berlin Festival from 2001 to 2018.
The programming team is also composed of:
Ali Hajji, who worked in programming at MK2 in Paris. From 2002 to 2004, he was the general coordinator of the Marrakech International Film Festival, then delegate director of the Festival of Casablanca from 2005 to 2011 and artistic director of the European Film Weeks in Morocco from 2006 to 2017. In addition to his participation in the programming team, Ali Hajji has also been appointed general coordinator.
Ms. Rasha Salti is an art curator who has worked as a selector for various festivals including Abu Dhabi (2009 - 2010) and Toronto (2011 - 2015).
Ms. Anke Leweke is a film critic who has been a member of the selection committee of the Berlin Film Festival since 2002. She has been a consultant for the Shanghai International Film Festival since 2012 and a consultant for the Hong Kong International Film Festival since 2014.
Rémi Bonhomme is General Coordinator of the Critics' Week at the Cannes Film Festival.