Pjer Zalica's Fuse was awarded the Golden Star (Etoile d'Or) at the third Marrakech International Film Festival, which wrapped yesterday(Oct 8. The Bosnian film also won the best actor prize for Bogdan Diklic's performance.
Tom McCarthy's The Station Agent took the feature film Special Jury Prize, while Takeshi Kitano was named best director for Zatoichi. (See below for full list of winners).
The festival's twelve-title competition section, which included titles from five continents, was praised for its international leaning and accessibility. There was a lack of world premieres, although the organisers are aiming to turn the event into an A grade international festival.
There were also some difficulties with screenings starting late, but delegates agreed that the six-day festival is gaining momentum every year.
Spectator numbers over the week - which include festival guests and Moroccan audiences - were around 100,000, more than double last year's total of 40,000.
The interest from Marakchis - for whom screenings are free - was strong, with long queues daily at the festival's ticket office. Artistic director Christine Ravet was taken aback at the interest shown by locals. "Every day at every screening we have seen a growing appetite from Moroccan spectators for films," she said. "There is an incredibly potent demand for cinema here which is just waiting to be fed. It was my most beautiful professional experience."
One of the most popular films with Moroccan audiences was Fernando Perez's Suite Havana.
Open air free screenings - including one of Luchino Visconti's Rocco And His Brothers, whose star, Alain Delon attended the festival -- were also held in Marrakech's central Jeema El Fna square, alongside the ever-present snake charmers, Islamic storytellers, snail sellers and hustlers.
Audience numbers at the Jeema El Fna screenings were estimated at 50,000 to 60,000 over the course of the festival.
"There are never enough festivals," said head of the feature jury Volker Schloendorff. "Festivals multiply because they form a bond between the public and special movies. This festival is not about stars and glamour, it's about how we live in the world."
"It's a young festival," said Kamal Belghmi, owner of Atlas Studios. "We're taking small steps here, but I want it to move towards getting more professionals."
The festival, which was presided over this year by French actress Nathalie Baye, is likely to move to November next year to avoid a clash with other festivals such as Pusan, Dinard and Rio, and the Muslim holy festival Ramadan.
With a budget of $3.5m, the festival is seen by the Moroccan state and King Mohammed VI as the best way to advertise the country's strengths to foreign film-makers and tourists, especially in the wake of the Casablanca bombings last May.
"It's important that Morocco has a film festival," said Ridley Scott, who starts shooting Kingdom Of Heaven in the country in January. "I've made two films here in the last few years and I'll do anything I can to help."
As well as Scott, other visitors to the well-attended event included Colin Farrell and Oliver Stone, who are currently shooting the $150m Alexander, director Spike Jonze, Indian legend Amitabh Bachchan, Jeremy Irons and Stuart Townsend.
Marrakech International Film Festival, prize winners:
Etoile D'or For Best Feature Film: Fuse directed by Pjer Zalica
Feature Film Jury Special Prize: The Station Agent directed by Thomas McCarthy
Best Screenplay: Les Yeux Secs by Narjiss Nejjar
Best Actor: Bogdan Diklie for Fuse
Best Actress: Najat Bensallem for Raja
Best Short Film: Hymne A La Gazelle directed by Stephanie Duvivier
Short Film Jury Special Prize: Hacla directed by Tariq Teguia