Jurors also touch on security concerns and gender imbalance at opening press conference.

Francis Ford Coppola quoted from the Koran and touched on the interplay between art and power during the Marrakech International Film Festival (December 04 -12) jury press conference yesterday [Dec 4].

Coppola, who is serving as the president of jury, paid tribute to the ‘beautiful religion’ of Islam in a conference which focused on the role of cinema and festivals in the current international climate and on the ongoing debate about gender imbalance in the industry.

The jury, which includes directors Anton Corbijn, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Naomi Kawase and actors Amal Ayouch, Sergio Castellitto, Richa Chadda, Olga Kurylenko and Sami Bouajila, fielded questions from press who had submitted to rigorous security measures in order to enter the Palais Des Congres.

When asked about travelling to Marrakech for the film festival in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Castellitto confessed to some initial reservations because he felt travel at this time might be ‘too risky’.

But, he explained, the jurors discussed the issue and decided that attending the festival was a political gesture.

“We have to come as artists, we have to go on working. We have to have a vision of the future. And we try to make this vision as optimistic as possible, although it shouldn’t be shallow.”

He added: “Secondly, I was told that if I didn’t come, I might find a horse’s head in my bed.”

Indian actress Chadda pointed to her country’s long post-partition history of social and religious unrest, and the role of cinema in promoting what she described as ‘a message of peace’.

Coppola, however, sounded a note of caution about the relationship between art and power. “When I was young, I came up with an interesting idea. You can figure out who runs the world by who is employing the artists. Years ago it was the Vatican. Then came the Renaissance, and the Medici family who made their money as the bankers for the Vatican. Then we have a period where nobility and wealthy families employed the artists.

“Today, it must be the various corporations. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because art has the power to change the world, the artists are in charge of their art.”

Meanwhile, Kurylenko dismissed a question about the lack of female directors in the main competition.

“I think films have been chosen for reasons and it’s just a coincidence that there are no female directors. I think we are getting a bit psychotic, asking why are women being ignored, that kind of thing.”

The festival opened with the Bill Murray-starring Rock The Kasbah; the star was present to receive a lifetime achievement award.

Festival highlights include masterclasses from Fatih Akin, Park Chan-Wook, and Abbas Kiarostami and a tribute to the work of Moroccan director of photography Kamal Derkaoui (The Tall Man, Rabid Dogs).

This year’s festival also features a tribute to Canadian cinema, and hosts a delegation of Canadian filmmakers and actors, which is headed by Atom Egoyan.