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Morocco Is Hosting a Massive Festival of International Cinema

Auteur and independent cinema reigns during the Marrakech International Film Festival in December.
Photo Courtesy of Marrakech International Film Festival

Boasting a wide-ranging lineup unfazed by the pressures of including nonstop high-profile premieres, the 16th-annual Marrakech International Film Festival kicks December off with its own natural focus on independent cinema and a humanist approach. Located in Morocco’s fourth-largest city and founded by His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid, it’s a fest housed in spectacular theatres and surroundings, with two dozen selections from veteran and up-and-coming world filmmakers alike. How often do you find just two films overall from the United States (Disney’s Moana and Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits in this case) falling in among those from China, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, South Africa, and many more?


Photo of Jury President Béla Tarr. © András Szebeni

In years past the fest has attracted the likes of Martin Scorsese, Isabelle Huppert, and Francis Ford Coppola to preside over the festival jury, and this year features an especially rare get in the form of Hungarian director Béla Tarr. Dubbed one of cinema’s “most adventurous artists” by Scorsese himself, the now-retired Turin Horse and Werckmeister Harmonies director has remained famously private, and also infamously outspoken when he does step into the public eye (visit this MUBI interview from July for such a taste). Joining him on the jury of nine is a collection of actors, directors, and writers such as Bruno Dumont, Jason Clarke, Suzanne Clément, and Jasmine Trinca.

The MIFF 2016 In Competition Lineup. Photo Courtesy of Marrakech International Film Festival

For attendees the lineup means a chance to walk into a cinema and not know what they’re about to see—a rare occurrence in a festival landscape that largely rotates the same heavily hyped slate of films. There are a few heavy-hitters: Kim Ji-Woon’s dazzling The Age of Shadows, a 1920s-set film about Korean independence under Japanese occupation, opens the festival, while Paul Verhoeven’s controversial latest starring Isabelle Huppert, Elle, screens later on. But others, like Navid Mahmoudi’s Parting or Wang Xuebo’s Knife In The Clear Water, are socially-minded feature debuts by promising directors, given the rare spot in a festival with room to breathe and discuss their work afterwards.

The MIFF 2016 Out of Competition Lineup. Photo Courtesy of Marrakech International Film Festival.

Between screenings, the festival will make room for tributes to actress Isabelle Adjani (Possession, Queen Margot), Shinya Tsukamoto (director of the Tetsuo films), Paul Verhoeven, and Moroccan comedian and actor Abderrahim Tounsi. On top of that, they will also feature Masterclass presentations from Verhoeven, Paul Haggis, and Russian director Pavel Lounguine, following up the solid bill last year of the late Abbas Kiarostami and directors Park Chan-Wook and Fatih Akin. The fest is an auteur-driven display, no doubt, but it’s impressive to see a fest leave room for invitees to really dig into their work’s themes and universal impact. It’s been the plan all along for Prince Moulay Rachid, however, as he reflects that the fest should “support and promote a vision of the world in which responsibilities are shared, in which origins and differences are set aside to give way to a common wish to contribute to a better future.”


Photo Courtesy of Marrakech International Film Festival

The Marrakech International Film Festival runs from December 2nd - 10th, 2016, in Marrakech, Morocco. For more information visit, and see below for a full list of films screening at the festival.

Marrakech 2016 Lineup:

In Competition

The Road To Mandalay / Taiwan, Myanmar, France, & Germany (Director: Midi Z)

All of a Sudden / Germany, France & Netherlands (Director: Asli Özge)

The Blind Christ / France & Chile (Director: Christopher Murray)

The Donor / China (Director: Zang Qiwu)

The Fits / USA (Director: Anna Rose Holmer)  

The Fixer / Romania & France (Director: Adrian Sitaru)

Heartstone / Denmark & Iceland (Director: Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson)

L'Histoire d'une mère / France (Director: Sandrine Veysset)

King of the Belgians / Belgium, Netherlands & Bulgaria (Directors: Peter Brosens & Jessica Woodworth)

Knife in the Clean Water / China (Director: Wang Xuebo)

Mister Universo / Austria & Italy (Directors: Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel)

Parting / Iran & Afghanistan (Director: Navid Mahmoudi)

Shepherds and Butchers / South Africa, USA, & Germany (Director: Oliver Schmitz)  

Zoology / Russia, France & Germany (Director: Ivan I. Tverdovsky)

Out of Competition

The Age of Shadows / South Korea (Director: Kim Jee-Woon)  – Opening Film

Carole Matthieu / France (Director: Louis-Julien Petit)

Ceasefire / France & Belgium (Director: Emmanuel Courcol)   

The Duelist / Russia (Director: Alexeï Mizguirev)


Elle / France & Germany (Director: Paul Verhoeven)

Moana / USA (Directors: Ron Clements & John Musker)

Mon oncle / Morocco (Director: Nassim Abassi)

Orphan / France (Director: Arnaud Des Pallières)

Souvenir / Belgium, Luxembourg, & France (Director: Bavo Defurne)

Goodbye Berlin / Germany (Director: Fatih Akin)  – Closing Film

“From The Heart”

A Wedding / Belgium, Pakistan, Luxembourg & France (Director: Stephan Streker)

The Eagle Huntress / UK, Mongolia & USA (Director: Otto Bell)

Heaven Sent / France & Lebanon (Director: Wissam Charaf)

Layla M. / Netherlands, Belgium, Germany & Jordan (Director: Mijke De Jong)

Mimosas / Spain, Morocco, France & Qatar (Director: Olivier Laxe)

Wulu / France, Senegal & Mali (Director:Daouda Coulibaly)


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