Paolo Sorrentino and His Jury Talk The Magic of Cinema and Tracking the Future of Film at Marrakech

MARRAKECH – Saving cinema, the joy of sitting in darkened rooms and a lack of female role models in Arab cinema, were just some of the topics addressed by this year’s star-studded jury at the Marrakech Film Festival on Saturday.

Slightly different to October’s announcement, this year’s jury consists of  Vanessa Kirby (“The Son”), French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim (“The Serpent”), Australian director Justin Kurzel (“Nitram”), Lebanese director-actor Nadine Labaki (“Caparnum”), Germany’s Diane Kruger (“Inglorious Basterds”) and Moroccan director Laïla Marrakchi

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(“Marock”). Paolo Sorrentino, the Oscar-winning director of “The Great Beauty” and “The Hand of God,” presides.

Oscar Isaac (“Scenes from a Marriage”) and Danish director Susanne Bier (“The Undoing”) were originally also announced as jury members.

At the opening night ceremony on Friday, host Nabila Kilani announced that “difficult circumstances” had stood in the way of Bier and Isaac attending Marrakech.

Many questions were addressed to jury head Sorrentino.

“There’s a moment of confusion around films. The pandemic brought us to face many new realities. We have to wait a bit for new wonderful movies,” he said.

“Years ago the challenge for me was to do TV series. I love doing films for big rooms because there is a crisis in cinema. Our duty is to save cinemas. Maybe platforms don’t need us at this moment. It’s a crisis in many countries including Italy,” he added.

Labaki spoke not just about preserving cinemas but also the need to have voices on the screen from all continents, including the Arab world and Africa. Both regions are an integral part of the Marrakech fest.

“To help cinemas and serve audiences in the Arab world and Africa, we should show Hollywood films but we should also show films from everywhere, locally, Bollywood, you name it.”

Missing role models in the Arab world is something both Rahim and addressed.

“There were no role models when I was growing up in Morocco for female directors or actors,” I live between France and Morocco. I did two films in Morocco. I carry the voice of Moroccan women with me and bear this fight wherever I go as a Moroccan woman.”

Added Rahim:  “There are more and more representatives of the Maghreb world on screen today, but there were no people from my origins as a kid, so I watched Hollywood movies which had more or less the same issues as in France. Platforms can help. When I was a kid, theaters were the experience. I couldn’t afford it. We need to defend the experience of cinema today.”

Kurzel was last in Marrakech with his Australian murder thriller “Snowtown” in 2011. He recognized the benefits of showing his first film here.

“It’s really exciting being on the jury and watching first -time filmmakers,” he said. “Looking back at my first film, it was reckless and unbridled, and it’s hard to find that again. It was really important for that film to have the exposure at the festival because it was hard to get the word out from Australia. I’m still friends with people I met here. You form a tribe. And that sustains you,” he said.

Asked what she looked forward to in Marrakech, Kirby said:  “The best cinema makes me empathize or dissolve any preconceptions about something or place or combination of both.”

She added: “Cinema has make me feel so deeply for corners of experience I haven’t had. I’m always surprised by my own beliefs that I then challenge through my work. I’m really excited to be part of this group and on this journey too.”

Meanwhile, Kruger is looking forward to darkened rooms filled with discoveries.

“I am excited to be back at a festival that celebrates new cinema and movies,” she said. “When you are in a dark room and seeing so many films, the beautiful ones really stick out. I’m looking forward to finding new filmmakers and hopefully new actors and seeing the future of film.”

The festival runs Nov. 11-20.

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