Transnational Moroccan Cinema

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Modern Languages French

Abstract

This project explores the emergence of Moroccan cinema over the past two decades as one of the most significant national cinemas in Africa and the Arab world. It will be argued that a transnational perspective is required to fully appreciate the reasons behind the recent, unprecedented rise of Moroccan cinema (from a handful of films per year in the 1970s to 25 feature films annually since 2000), as well as developing a broader understanding of Moroccan cinema's increasingly significant contribution to world cinema. The project will bring together academics and filmmakers to analyse four key areas that have shaped contemporary Moroccan cinema as they relate to this national/transnational dynamic:

1.The contribution of filmmakers from the Moroccan diaspora to the rise of Moroccan cinema since the 1990s. These filmmakers, working for the most part between Europe and the Maghreb are at once inside and outside of the configuration of 'national' cinema as it is traditionally understood - forcing us to re-think what constitutes Moroccan 'national' cinema, where it is located, created and disseminated.

2. The pivotal function of film festivals in Morocco (and abroad) as a means of promoting transnational investment, creative and institutional collaboration in the Moroccan film industry. International film festivals are now central to the construction of cinema knowledge as well as the behind-the-scene mechanics of finance, distribution, and exhibition. Field trips to Moroccan and European festivals by the research team will thus form a vital part of the research project, allowing for an assessment of the current state of Moroccan (trans-)national cinema as art and business.

3. The increasing presence of Moroccan women filmmakers since the late-1990s. Moroccan women's cinema is concerned with the local and the trans-local in terms of the themes addressed in these films, as well as in the financial packages employed by these filmmakers to produce and distribute their work. Research in this strand of the project will therefore focus on the intersection of gender and trans-locality (as a subset of transnationalism) in Moroccan women's filmmaking.

4. Moroccan cinema's response to the challenges and opportunities of digital cinema. Will the greater accessibility of digital filmmaking technology and multiple platform exhibition channels allow a more diverse 'national' cinema to emerge? Can such modes of digital production, distribution and exhibition build on the critical and commercial success enjoyed by Moroccan filmmakers since the late 1990s, while allowing for a cinema that is more widely viewed both nationally and internationally? This research strand will place a particular emphasis on strategies and trends in distribution - traditionally seen as the weak link in Moroccan cinema. In an age of multi-platform, transnational distribution and the increasing threat to the film industry of digital piracy, what will be the effect on Moroccan cinema of emerging formal and informal digital distribution networks?

A key objective of this project is to link academic researchers with the filmmakers, critics, policy makers, festival programmers and audiences who are shaping the future of Moroccan cinema. The project will therefore involve field trips to archives in Morocco and Paris, as well as to major Moroccan film festivals. This engagement with the industry and artists will lead to the publication (online and in print) of a comprehensive set of data relating to production, distribution and exhibition in Morocco since the late 1990s, as well as extensive interviews with key figures in the Moroccan film industry and a major, co-authored book on Transnational Moroccan Cinema. Finally, two bursaries linked to the project will allow two Moroccan filmmakers to spend three months in residence at the world-renowned London Film School, with the work they produce being premiered at the Africa in Motion Film Festival (Edinburgh).

Planned Impact

The project will generate pathways to impact with a range of non-academic audiences, professional groups and organisations:

(1) Archival work conducted in the first two years of the project will provide the most extensive set of statistics on production, distribution and exhibition in Moroccan cinema since 1999. Some of this data (related to exhibition and production visas) currently exists on the Centre Cinématographique Marocain (CCM)'s website, though it is not accompanied by any sustained analysis and, in some cases, data is incomplete. The aim is to produce a much fuller set of data relating to all areas of production, distribution and exhibition in Moroccan cinema since 1999 and to disseminate this via the project website to policy-makers, journalists, festival organisers, distributors and exhibitors working in the Moroccan film industry.

(2) A major part of this project involves field trips to international festivals in Europe and Morocco to conduct interviews with delegates, festival programmers and organisers. The information and opinions gathered in these interviews will be disseminated via the project website and will be applied in the co-authored monograph to an analysis of the role and transnational reach of these festivals. These outputs will be of interest to organisers of international festivals such as Cinémaghreb [Brest, France] and the Mediterranean Film Festival in Tetouan that focus on cinema from the Global South and could inform the programming and strategic direction taken by their festivals in the future. The project also includes collaboration with two specific festivals: The Martil festival in Morocco, and the Africa in Motion Festival in Scotland. The organising committees at both festivals have agreed to host an academic symposium linked to the research project. Members of the festival organisation, as well as filmmakers from Morocco and France will be participating directly with academics at these two symposia. This open forum betwn industry, the academy and public audiences offers a clear pathway to impact for the research emerging from this project.

(3) As mentioned in point (1) (above) data does exist in relation to production, distribution and exhibition in the archives of the CCM, through this has yet to be fully analysed or exploited for research purposes in any systematic way. This data, along with research on the increasing importance of women filmmakers and the impact of digital technologies on contemporary Moroccan cinema that will appear in the monograph co-authored by the PI, CI and RF will be of particular interest to policy makers in the CCM and Moroccan film industry and could help to shape future policy and funding decisions.

(4) The two symposia linked to festivals in Morocco and the UK that form part of this project, allow the PI, CI and RF to connect their work to an informed, non-academic, international public audience who will be attending these two festivals. The Martil festival attracts over 500 visitors annually, while the Africa in Motion (AiM) festival reached a total audience of 5000 in 2012. In addition to the more traditional academic panels and keynotes, the symposia linked to these festivals will include round table discussions with filmmakers, industry figures and critics, introductions to screenings of films and Q&A sessions with filmmakers, all of which will be open to the public audience attending these festivals. The AiM festival will also provide the venue for the premiere of the short films made by Moroccan filmmakers following their residency at the London Film School as part of this project. All of these events thus represent an important opportunity to establish a greater connection with public audiences, whose further engagement and participation in the project will be encouraged by linking these events to social media to promote the activities of the research project and the material contained on the project website.

Publications


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Martin F (2016) Cinéma-monde: de-orbiting Maghrebi cinema in Contemporary French Civilization
 
Description Findings that have been disseminated from the research project to date (through conference presentation and panels, round table discussions, screenings of films and public debates and through media interviews) have informed opinions in the general public (e.g. cinema audiences and those who attended the Africa in Motion Film Festival in October 2017) and introduced a wider general audience to Moroccan cinema. The project has made important links within the Moroccan film industry to both individual filmmakers (who have been interviewed for the project and whose interviews can be viewed on the project website) as well as organisations that represented industry professionals (e.g. the Chamber of Moroccan Film Producers) and the Moroccan Film Council (CCM). In terms of film education and professional development, the project has facilitated collaboration between two Moroccan filmmakers in residence and staff and students at the London Film School, a leading international film school. Through its involvement and collaboration with the Africa in Motion Film Festival (Scotland) and the MONA festival (Belgium) the project is helping to shape and promote a greater public engagement with Moroccan cinema, as well as informing programmers of national/international festivals about Moroccan cinema.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal
 
Description London Film School 
Organisation London Film School
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution As part of the research project, we have two young Moroccan filmmakers (Saida Janjague and Mahassine El-hachadi) currently as filmmakers in residence at the London Film School (LFS) . The period of residence runs from January - March 2017. The filmmakers have been collaborating with staff and students at the LFS to develop their current film projects. A screening of their films and discussion with staff and students at the LFS will take place on 14th March 2017. They will also be collaborating in a symposium at the LFS 23-24th March as part of the MA in International Film Business, where they will be on a panel discussing production and development - the session will be chaired by PI of the research project, Professor Will Higbee
Collaborator Contribution During the residency at the LFS, the two Moroccan filmmakers have been able to collaborate with staff and students at the LFS, and attend workshops and masterclasses normally reserved exclusively for LFS staff and students. They have also had access to the production materials and equipment at the LFS.
Impact The Moroccan filmmakers have used their time in residency at the LFS to continue developing their current films. Once completed, the intention is to screen these short films as part of the Africa in Motion festival in Edinburgh, October/November 2018.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Industry Panel at Moroccan Cinema Uncut conference, Marrakech December 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As part of the project's first international conference in Marrakech, December 2016 (timed to coincide with the Marrakech International Film Festival) the project team, in collaboration with the Chamber of Moroccan Film Producers, organised a round-table industry debate on the challenges facing the Moroccan film industry. The debate was attended by over 80 people including industry professionals (directors, producers, distributors), representatives from the Moroccan film council (CCM), journalists, academics, students and the general public. The session lasted 90 minutes and included presentations from 4 members of the Chamber of Moroccan Film Producers, an introduction by the director of the Moroccan Film Council (CCM) Sarim Fassi Fihri and interventions from the audiences - for the most part these were interventions from Moroccan filmmakers.

The event was covered by Moroccan national film and TV and has set the groundwork for an official collaboration between the project research team and the Chamber of Moroccan Film Producers (the national organisation that represents Moroccan producers and lobbies the national film council and government on behalf of the industry).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://moroccancinema.exeter.ac.uk/en/2016/12/tmc-moroccan-cinema-uncut-day-4/
 
Description Interview with CNN for online article on Moroccan Cinema 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The PI of the research project (Professor Will Higbee) was contacted by a journalist working for CNN for an interview to produce a written article for CNN's website on Morocco as an international production location for cinema (especially Hollywood blockbusters. The article made extensive use of the interview given by Higbee.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/07/africa/morocco-hollywood-films/
 
Description MONA film festival (Antwerp, Belgium) February 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Stefanie Van de Peer (Research Assistant for the Transnational Moroccan Cinema research project) devised, organised and delivered the MONA film festival (cinema of North Africa and the Arab World) in Antwerp Belgium in February 2017. The festival, which aimed to bring Arab films to Belgian audiences as well as to initiate a cultural dialogue between Belgians and local immigrant communities from North Africa and the Arab world, included the screening of Moroccan film 'The Sleeping Child' to a sold out audience of 350 people. The festival also included panel debate on freedom of press in North Africa and roundtable on women's rights in North Africa. There was considerable local and national (Belgium) media interest in the festival, included press engagement and a TV appearance for Van de Peer discussing the aims of the festival. The festival has also led to potential collaborations with other European film festivals - with Van de Peer acting in a consultancy/advisory role in terms of programming Arab (and Moroccan) films at other festivals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ccberchem.be/nl/page/4278/mona-film-festival
 
Description Prof Flo Martin, interview article with 'Morocco on the Move' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The CI of the research project, Professor Flo Martin was interviews for an article about her role in the Transnational Moroccan Cinema project in 'Morocco on the Move' an online publication (across a website, facebook and twitter) that forms part of initiatives of the Moroccan American Center, a group of three NGOs - The Moroccan American Center for Policy, The Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center, and The Moroccan American Cultural Center - which work to promote relations and mutual understanding between the United States and Morocco. The Morocco on the Move twitter account has over 1900 followers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://moroccoonthemove.com/2016/10/14/speaking-dr-florence-martin-moroccan-cinema-transnational-act...
 
Description Screening of Films and Roundtable Discussion at Africa in Motion Film Festival, Edinburgh 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Transnational Moroccan Cinema research project team collaborated with the Africa in Motion (AiM) film festival in Scotland to screen films from Morocco and abroad dealing with the disputed Western Sahara territory on screen. Part of AiM's main goal has always been to bring the best of African cinema to UK audiences in a pan-African spirit that looks at both aesthetically beautiful as well as what might be called call 'necessary', or 'urgent' films (films with a socio-political impact or interest). The research team organised and delivered a double bill of a Moroccan epic historical feature and an issue-based activist documentary at AiM 2016 on Sunday 6 November: Al Massira: The Green March (2016) by Youssef Britel in conversation with Iara Lee's Life is Waiting: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara (2015). Both films commemorate the landmark event which took place on on 6 November 1975, when 350,000 Moroccan citizens heeded the call of King Hassan II to march into Western Sahara to reclaim it from the Spanish coloniser, and the 41 years of conflict and stalemate since then. These are two diametrically opposed films, and the idea behind programming them together was precisely to show both sides of the question and to enable a dialogue between the films and audiences. The screening of both films together followed by a panel of experts allowed the audience to get fresh insights into the questions addressed by Al Massira and Life is Waiting. The panel included professor Noé Mendelle, documentary filmmaker who has worked in Western Sahara on her film Al Khadra: Poet of the Desert (2012) and director of Scottish Documentary Institute; Will Higbee, Professor of Film Studies at the University of Exeter and Principal Investigator of the research project; Ali Bahaijoub, author of Western Sahara Conflict (2010) and Vice-Chair of the British-Moroccan Society; Alice Wilson, a lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex and author of Sovereignty in Exile: A Saharan Liberation Movement Governs (2016); and Jamal Bahmad, TMC Postdoctoral Fellow specialising in contemporary Moroccan film cultures. A total of 101 people attended the two screenings, with over 50 people for the discussion after the second film. Feedback cards distributed to the audience before the screenings and discussion were collected in at the end of the event and showed that the audience gained new insights into a complex and controversial political conflict in the Western Sahara.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://moroccancinema.exeter.ac.uk/en/blog/page/2/