The Marrakech Film Festival’s Artistic Director and programmer Remi Bonhomme travels the world and watches 800 films a year. By the closing ceremony, a few of these win the coveted awards (the most important in the Arab and North African calendar) the Étoile D’Or and the Jury Prize. 

In 2022, it was Iran’s A Tale of Sharmoon that took home the top prize. This year’s edition saw the awards stay closer to home, with Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir’s excellent documentary The Mother of all Lies winning the Étoile D’Or; inspired by the Bread Riots in El Moudir’s hometown of Casablanca in 1981, and using a replica of her neighbourhood to tell the story. El Moudir also made history as the first local director to win the top award.

The Jury Prize, selected by the star-studded panel of Hollywood and Arab-African artists, including Jessica Chastain, actor Tarik Saleh, and Joel Edgerton, were awarded to Palestinian documentary Bye Bye Tiberius (which is expected to be Palestine’s entry to the 2024 Oscars, so expect it to capture attention in light of the ongoing conflict) and sweaty Moroccan gangster story Hounds, which was among the buzziest of all films at the festival this year. 

Bye Bye Tiberius

This was a tough year for the Marrakech Film Festival. In September , a horrendous earthquake devastated the Atlas Mountains and conflict inflamed nearby Palestine. The Hollywood Actors Strike had also only just ended, so the glamour that has been associated with the festival for the past twenty years was intentionally subdued. This edition was all about the movies; the dimmed voices of artists in the Middle East and North Africa, and a sense of pride in what the region’s cinema can accomplish. The programme itself was also less influenced by what was shown at Cannes, Berlin, and Venice (as it has been in recent years) and so we were happily surprised to be exposed to a number of gems by lesser-known directors from the region—proof, once again, of the Marrakech Film Festival’s purpose and urgency. 

Hounds

With the announcement of the Atlas Distribution Award, Melita Toscan du Plantier, Remi Bonhommie, and their team are starting an even newer chapter: a brand-new initiative meant to fuel wider domestic and international distribution for the Moroccan, Arab and Pan-African films presented at the festival. The 800 or so films Remi Bonhommie watches every year will now also include those usually given little chance to be shown beyond the North African borders, hopefully ushering a new era in the region’s cinematic history—where their films and filmmakers will be taken as seriously by global audiences as they deserve to be.

A Rabbit’s Foot Says…

It’s my second time at the Marrakech Film Festival, and it has become my favourite of them all. Juxtaposing the glamour of the Mamounia, where our interviews take place, the boulevards, hotels, and the screening rooms, with the winding souk, the Casbah, and the romantic alleyways in the Old Town, is a cinematic experience. Yes, Cannes has the parties; Venice, the history and architecture, and Los Angeles is a starry affair. But after watching a sublime Moroccan film at the Palais, stepping out into the chaos of Marrakech is a thrill. 

Sometimes, life can be as magical as the movies.