Kim Jee-Woon’s ‘The Age of Shadows’ to Open Marrakech

Martin Dale
Variety

The 16th Marrakech Film Festival – one of the largest cultural events in the Arab world and African continent – has unveiled its full-line up.

Opening film is the 1920s-set transcendent spy thriller “The Age Of Shadows,” by South Korea’s Kim Jee-woon. Marrakech will close with  Fatih Akin’s coming-of-age drama, “Goodbye Berlin.”

Other out-of-competition pics include Louis-Julien Petit’s “Carole Matthieu” starring Isabelle Adjani; “Elle” by Paul Verhoeven; Disney’s animated adventure, “Moana;” and “My Uncle” the second feature by Moroccan director Nassim Abassi, starring comedian Abderrahim Tounsi. Adjani, Verhoeven and Tounsi will all receive career tributes at the festival.

Marrakech’s official selection aims to offer new, distinctive and dissonant voices in world cinema: “The radicalism of the selection reflects a wish to counter the widespread artistic blandness which unfolds on screens, and instead seeks a return to principles, to the roots of what engenders creation,” stated Bruno Barde, the fest’s artistic director.

The 14 competition films include five freshman titles and two sophomore outings. Titles contending for Marrakech’s Golden Star include “All Of A Sudden” by Turkish filmmaker Asli Özge, which bowed at the Berlinale in 2016, Venice-player “The Blind Christ,” about a man who journeys barefoot through the desert to perform a miracle, by Chile’s Christopher Murray; Anna Rose Holmer’s debut film, “The Fits”, which played at Venice and Sundance; and Toronto-screener “The Fixer,” by Romanian director, Adrian Sitaru.

Also making the cut are Icelandic early adolescence pic “Heartstone,” by Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson, that premiered at Venice; and two Chinese first features which jointly won the New Currents Awards at Busan this year; the kidney organ donation drama “The Donor,” by Zhang Yimou’s former assistant, Zang Qiwu; and Wang Xuebo’s “Knife In The Clear Water,” set in a remote Chinese mountain village. Another Busan-player, Afghan-Iranian drama, “Parting” by Navid Mahmoudi will also play in competition.

Other official selection titles take in Sandrine Veysset’s French generational drama, “The Story of a Mother”; Venice-selected mockumentary “King of the Belgiansm” by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth; Reiner Frimmel and Tizza Covi’s Locarno-seen circus docu-fiction “Mister Universo”; and immigration drama “The Road to Mandalay,” by Burmese director Midi Z, that bowed at Venice;

Also in the mix: Berlinale-bowing South African drama “Shepherds and Butchers,” directed by Oliver Schmitz; and coming-of-age drama “Zoology” by Russian writer-director Ivan Tverdovsky, that world preemed at Toronto.

Marrakech’s six-film sidebar, From the Heart, featuring what Barde terms “some ferocious filmmaking,” includes three debut features: Otto Bell’s “The Eagle Huntress” lensed in Mongolia; “Heaven Sent,” by Lebanese director Wissam Charaf; and Daouda Coulibaly’s drug trafficking drama “Wulu.” Also in the section: Olivier Laxe’s Directors’ Fortnight winner “Mimosas” about a caravan escorting a dying Sheikh through Morocco’s Atlas mountains; Stephan Striker’s “A Wedding,” turning on a Pakistani girl torn between family customs and her western lifestyle; and Mijke De Jong’s “Layla M” about an 18-year old Moroccan girl who has grown up in Amsterdam and joins a group of radical Muslims.

This year, Marrakech is paying its country tribute to Russia and will screen 30 films, with a 30-person Russian delegation attending, led by Mosfilm’s prexy, Karen Chakhnazarov.

Marrakech offers an intimate, privileged atmosphere that enables directors from around the world to mingle, watch films and talk about cinema. The nine-person jury is topped by Hungarian helmer Bela Tarr, who is joined by fellow directors Bruno Dumont, Lisandro Alonso and Bille August, and actors Suzanne Clément, Kalki Koechlin, Jason Clarke, Fatima Harandi and Jasmine Trinca.

Other filmmakers attending this year’s fest include Paul Verhoeven, Kim, Arnaud des Pallières, Akin, Pavel Lungin, Paul Haggis, and Shinya Tsukamoto, who will also receive a career tribute. The fest also includes in memoriam tributes to Iranian helmer Abbas Kiarostami, who attended last year’s edition, and to Moroccan filmmaker, Abdellah Masbahi.

The 16th Marrakech Film Festival runs Dec. 2 – 10.

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