On the 10th anniversary of the Marrakech Film Festival, its artistic director Bruno Barde talks to Screen about choosing films, attracting celebrity guests and the future of the festival.
Paris based Bruno Barde has been the artistic director of the Marrakech Film Festival for seven years. He also runs the American Film Festival and Asian Film Festivals in Deauville.
For its 10th anniversary, he, and festival director Mélita Toscan Du Plantier have pulled out all the stops, with Francis Ford Coppola, Lee Changdong and the Dardenne Brothers giving masterclasses, Eva Mendes in town to introduce her film Last Night and John Malkovich and Gael Garcia Bernal sitting on a star studded competition jury. The competition line up includes Feo Aladag’s When We Leave (Germany), Alexey Uchitel’s The Edge (Russia) and David Michod’s Animal Kingdom (Australia).
This year the festival also launched its first short film competition for Moroccan film students, with the jury headed up by actress Sigourney Weaver.
It’s the 10th anniversary of the festival. What is special this year?
The 10th edition is special because the festival is now entering maturity. Everything we attempted and tried to do before, it’s actually succeeding today.
A festival from my point of view is based on four pillars; firstly, the legacy of cinema, which we are doing by paying tribute to directors from all over the world and paying tribute to the history of cinema.
The second pillar is the cinema of today, through the movies and the masterclasses which we organise here, which are helping to transmit knowledge of cinema to the younger gerneration.
And the third and fourth are the cinema of tomorrow..and the cinema of the day after tomorrow. We are doing that through our new short movies competition, which will prepare the actors and directors of tomorrow in Morocco. We are preparing a brand new generation for the future of Moroccan cinema.
Yes, we have lots of stars here, but at this festival the most important aspect is the film itself. The film always comes before the stars, which is not the case at many other festivals. When a star comes without a film, we create a masterclass, like this year we have masterclasses with Harvey Keitel and Francis Ford Coppola and the Dardenne brothers.
This year you have a special tribute to French cinema. Why France?
We thought for the 10th anniversary, France was a good idea, because of all the links and relationships between France and Morocco, not to mention the language. And also, France is at the core of cinema, just like Greece is at the core of European culture. In France we have great critics from magazines like Cahiers Du Cinema..and these critics they don’t really have equals.
I decided to choose movies from the last 30 years. In France there are 200 movies produced each year, which means in the last 30 years there have been 6000 movies produced. I have picked just a fraction of these. We tried to be very rigorous and to of course choose the great masters of French cinema like Francois Truffut and Eric Rohmer,Arnaud Desplechin and also contemporary filmmakers like Claude Zidi. I wanted to try to show a complete as possible representation of French cinema over the last 30 years.
If I could, I would I also point the spotlight on producers , because people like Kurosawa, Fellini, Kieslowski, all of these great masters could not have made their movies without the help of French producers. French producers are part of the legacy of the French tradition of helping cinema through the CNC, and all the support and help that the French government gives has also helped film-makers outside of France.
How do you pick the competition films?
I travel a lot, I go to markets in Berlin, Pusan, AFM, I go to various countries, like Italy, Spain, Japan, where they show us films, and I get DVDs at my home in Paris and my company has been creating links with producers and distributors..I also take care of the Asian film Deauville and the American Film Festival Deauville, so I basically watch 1200 movies a year.
Artistically..what is the criteria? Basically, I try to choose good movies. A good movie is a testimony of a reality or a fantasy where you can see the personality of the director. A good movie is reinventing through its structure, and the shot and the sequence, the whole rhetoric of cinematographic grammar.
This is the strength of all great programmers, such as Thierry Frémaux and Gilles Jacob. They don’t argue for ever, they have the instinct after watching all these movies that drives the choice. It’s a subjective act.
Where do you see the festival going in the next 10 years?
We are going to continue what we started and make it stronger. We are going to develop relationships and experiences for people here in Marrkech, and we hope that will lead to more co –poroductions with Morocco, because Morocco is a very important place in the world of cinema, in Morocco there are some of the best technicians, studios, and most importantly there is a strong political will here to turn Morocco into a country of cinema.
If you look throughout the world today, you can’t create great cinema without a political will behind it to support it. If you look at South Korea, cinema is becoming really strong and it’s thanks to the minister of culture who is really supporting cinema. It’s the same in France and the US, the US has always been very conscious of using cinema to transmit its image around the world. Where there is not a political will, it’s much harder because you can’t create the economy of cinema.
You have an amazing line up of directors and actors at the festival. Why do you think they make the effort to come to Marrakech?
The festival is 10 years old and we’ve got many friends. Martin Scorsese is a friend of the festival, he has been here three times, Francis Ford Coppola is also a friend of the festival. We have created this network, which we are growing every day. And people around the world do know that the festival is a serious one. To start with, it’s the only festival in the Arab world which is not being censored, so that’s important. And we have masterclasses and tributes. I don’t say it’s easy to get these people here.
Yes, Marrakech is a gorgeous city, but it’s not just about people coming to a beautiful place. They also know that when they come here they are helping cinema as an art. Today, it’s very hard because these actors are always being asked to advertise things, or wear this kind of necklace. Here they know it’s different, it is about the purity of the art itself. Francis Ford Coppola has received 2 palm do’rs and still he is here, for nothing, just to talk about cinema, not even about a movie.
The Dardenne brothers couldn’t be here last year, but they came this year. Lee Changdong couldn’t be part of the South Korean selection last year, so he’s here this year. When they can’t come once, they always have a good reason not to come and then one day they do come.