Morocco, film in
Morocco, film in
Lumière cameramen produced a number of actualities in Morocco in 1896, and the first film screenings took place in the royal palace in Fez in 1897. French filmmakers produced around fifty Francophone films in Morocco under colonial rule, including Ali-Baba et les quarante voleurs/Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (Jacques Becker, 1954), though opportunities for Moroccan filmmakers were severely limited. After independence in 1956, and in contrast to Algeria where the state took a very active role in film production, the film industry was left to the private sector. A small number of educational documentaries and newsreels were produced by the government-run Centre Cinématographique Marocain (CCM), which also funded the first Moroccan feature films: Vaincre pour vivre/Conquer to Live, co-directed by Mohamed Abderrahmane Tazi and Ahmed Mesnaoui, and Quand mûrissent les dates/When the Dates Ripen, co-directed by Larbi Benanni and Abdelaziz Ramdani, both released in 1968. Only 15 films were made during the 1970s. These were mainly financed through the CCM and included a cycle of commercial Egyptian-style musical melodramas. Souheil Ben Barka's Les mille et une mains/A Thousand and One Hands (1972) won film festival prizes and received critical acclaim, though its polemical critique of the inequities of Moroccan capitalism ensured that it was not widely distributed at home. Ahmed el Maânouni's Alyam Alyam/The Days, The Days (1978) and Jilal Ferhati's Poupées de roseaux/Reed Dolls (1982) examined Moroccan society with an almost ethnographic eye. Films of this period lacked popular appeal, however; and the early works of Hamid Benani, Moumen Smihi, and Mostapha Derkaoui, which are considered among Morocco's major contributions to World cinema, were not widely distributed.
In the early 1980s the state intervened more actively via a CCM-administered tax on cinema admissions. This funded a significant rise in production, with 38 feature films made by the end of the decade. Nabyl Lah-lou and Mohamed B.A. Tazi were the most prolific directors of the 1980s, when Morocco's first female film directors, Farida Bourquia and Farida Benlyazid, made their debuts, with Benlyazid's Une porte sur le ciel/A Door to the Sky (1988) depicting the incompatibility of female emancipation and traditional Islamic values. Mohammed Reggab's Le coiffeur du quartier des pauvres/The Barber of the Poor Quarter (1982) received critical acclaim. However, in spite of CCM's efforts, audiences for all these films were small. In the 1990s, Souheil Ben Barka, the head of CCM, directed two commercially successful historical epics, Les cavaliers de la gloire/Horsemen of Glory (1993) and L'ombre du pharaon/Shadow of the Pharaoh (1996), and Mohamed Abderahmane Tazi's comedy of manners, A la recherche du mari de ma femme/Looking for my Wife's Husband (1993), became Morocco's highest grossing film to date. Three films by Abdelkader Lagtaâ—Un amour à Casablanca/A Love Affair in Casablanca (1991), La porte close/The Closed Door (1995), and Les Casablancais/The Casablancans (1998)—proved successful and controversial in equal measure. This more commercial approach increased audience numbers and resulted in improved revenue for the CCM. By the end of the 1990s, Morocco was producing around ten films per year, a figure comparing favourably with both Algeria and Egypt, the nations previously dominant in the region. A new generation of filmmakers emerged in the late 1990s, along with claims of the arrival of a Moroccan new wave. Nabil Ayouch's debut feature, Mektoub (1997), was a commercial success, and his second film, Ali Zaoua (1999), set a new box-office record and was well received internationally. Mohamed Asli, Daoud Aoulad Syad, Driss Chouika, Yasmine Kessari, Majid Rchich, and Faouzi Bensaïdi, are also part of this new generation, with Bensaïdi's Mille mois/A Thousand Months screening in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes film festival in 2003. Some low-budget Berber language cinema has also been produced in and around the Southern city of Agadir.
Morocco has successfully established a viable and eclectic film production and distribution strategy. This success has been augmented by a commitment to international co-production, with films such as Indigènes/Days of Glory (Rachid Bouchareb, Algeria/France/Morocco/Belgium, 2006) proving commercially successful. Investment in film infrastructure and a conducive taxation regime has also attracted the runaway film production from the US. See also arab cinema; beur cinema; middle east, film in the; north africa, film in.