Curtain down on Marrakech International Film Festival | Saad Guerraoui

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MARRAKECH – The curtain came down December 7 on Morocco’s biggest film festival with Colombia’s “Valley of Souls,” directed by Nicolas Rincon Gille awarded the Etoile d’Or for best film.

“Colombia is a country that people know very little about but, in this film, I try to offer a glimpse of the country and make us realise how we are connected at the deepest human level,” Gill said.

The Jury prize went to both Saudi film “Last Visit” by Abdulmohsen Aldhabaan and Chinese film “Mosaic Portrait” by Zhai Yixiang.

The best directing prize was awarded to the Tunisian director Ala Eddine Slim for his enigmatic film “Tlamess.” “I dedicate the award to all people who have a dream to achieve something in their lives,” said Slim.

British actors Nichola Burley and Roxanne Scrimshaw in Fyzal Boulifa’s “Lynn + Lucy” shared the award of best female actor, while best male actor award went to Australian actor Toby Wallace in Shannon Murphy’s “Babyteeth.”

The 18th Marrakech International Film Festival (FIFM) ran for nine days and  included the screening of more than 95 films representing 34 nationalities, with 14 feature films considered for the Etoile d’Or Award.

FIFM President Moroccan Prince Moulay Rachid said in a message on the festival’s website that the festival again highlighted the depth and beauty of cinema: a programme lush with discoveries, centred on a competition revealing new talent under the eye of a jury led by British actor and producer Tilda Swinton.

The festival honoured Australian cinema through the screening of more than 25 films at various venues in Marrakech.

Celebrities, including award-winning French actress Marion Cotillard and British-Australian actress Naomi Watts, walked the red carpet on the opening night of the festival.

“I feel home in Marrakech. I have shot two films here. It is also a special moment for cinema in general as it can be seen in the huge number of stars present this year,” Cotillard told FIFM.

Cotillard won the Best Actress Academy Award in 2008 for her portrayal of chanteuse Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.”

During the “Conversation with” at the Palais des Congres, Cotillard said playing the role as an opera singer in “Annette” by film-maker Leos Carax was a challenge. “I read the script and found the story beyond singular, deep and palpable. There is this poetic genius and madness that is in the projects of Leos Carax,” said Cotillard.

The FIFM paid tribute to the legendary American film-maker Robert Redford, whose six-decade tenure made him one of Hollywood’s most iconic figures of contemporary cinema. Among Redford’s most successful movies is “The Sting,” which won seven Academy Awards and earned him a Best Actor nomination. As a director, Redford won the DGA Award, the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Director for his debut film “Ordinary People.”

“Today we live in a complex world, where darkness seems to prevail… that’s why I created the Sundance Institute to support independent voices that do not find their place in the dominant culture,” Redford said.

The festival paid tribute to veteran French film-maker Bertrand Tavernier, Moroccan actress Mouna Fettou and Bollywood icon Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

“What an honour it is to be given this recognition from peers in Morocco and abroad! My pride is only matched by my impatience to meet you all there,” said Fettou.

Jonas said she was thrilled to be returning to Marrakech, after attending the festival in 2012 for the tribute to Hindi cinema.

“It is such an honour to be recognised this year with a tribute on Jemaa El Fna Square before the Moroccan public, who have always shown so much love and support throughout my career,” said Jonas.

Some 28 film projects in development and post-production from 14 countries were presented at the Atlas Workshops, which seek to enhance the network of film professionals from Africa and the Middle East by offering a preview of their new projects for television buyers, festival directors and sales agents.

The FIFM offered more than 100 blind and visually impaired guests from across Morocco the opportunity to follow films in audio-description through a voice-over text that describes visual elements of the work.

The Festival Foundation organised a free cataract surgery campaign, conducted in partnership with the Hassan II Foundation of Ophthalmology and the Health Ministry, involving many Arab and Moroccan celebrities.

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