Is Morocco the Next Hollywood?
What do Inception, Alexander, Gladiator, and Sex and the City 2 have in common? They were all shot in Morocco.
Recently, the North-African country witnessed a wave of filmmakers coming from all horizons in search of the natural setting made of desert, palm-trees, bazaars, and ancient monuments. With about 20 to 30 films made by American, French, Italian, or British producers each year, Morocco is quickly becoming a safe haven for directors and producers in search of culturally rich scenery.
One might ask, why Morocco?
One answer could be that the landscape gives filmmakers the creative power to not only portray Morocco itself, but also allows them to masquerade the country as other exotic locations, such as India (The Man Who Would be King), Abu Dhabi (Sex and the City 2), Palestine (Jesus of Nazareth), or even as a fictional Arab country called “Abbudin” in the new FX series Tyrant.
Another highlight is Morocco’s year-round 8-hour days. In cities like Marrakesh or Casablanca, filmmakers can shoot anytime of the year without any interruption. Furthermore, Morocco’s weather is comparable to sunny California. This privileged geography, at the intersection of Africa and Europe, fosters a rich and unique cultural landscape that makes it a unique location for movie making. Additionally, filmmakers are warmly welcomed and supported by the Moroccan government, due to their bolstering impact on tourism on the local economy.
Morocco’s Filmmaking Acclaim
Last year, Sharon Stone and Martin Scorsese presided over the Main Competition Jury for the 13th edition of the Marrakesh International Film Festival. The Red City befittingly rolled out the red carpet for Marion Cotillard, Patricia Clarkson, Golshifteh Farahani, and director Paolo Sorrentino, just to name a few. The event reinforced an already strong relationship between Martin Scorseese and Morocco. In fact, it was in the Atlas Film Studios in Ouarzazate, a Moroccan capital, that the American director shot The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun. The famous director boasted, “It’s like being home in Marrakech, but this festival is also a different kind of home, a precious home for cinema.”
The Hurdles to Shooting in Morocco
Aside from the glamorous film festivals, one must know what goes on behind the scenes to make production possible in Morocco. There is some red tape that foreigners have to get through in order to enjoy the privilege of shooting in such a disparate location.
For example, there are regulations in the areas of production, exploitation, and distribution that production companies must abide by. These regulations are set forth by the Moroccan Cinema Center (CCM), which was established in 1944, and is in charge of implementing the rules and regulations of the industry. This public entity, which acts under the authority of the ministry for information, has the capacity to grant authorizations to shoot films, mandatory professional memberships cards, and visas to market foreign and domestically produced films.
In order to hold production in Morocco, a shooting authorization form along with a copy of the screenplay, credentials, and a list of Moroccan technicians are subject to the approval of the General Director of the CCM. The authorization demand must indicate the producer’s name, the production company’s address, and must mention the original language of the movie.
As far as distribution is concerned, the CCM reviews the relevant distribution markets, and grants its authorization afterwards. Before such review, an extract from the register of commerce must be submitted, along with paperwork indicating the subject in its import and distribution of films, a certified copy of the original identity card or the company officials, and the criminal records and two passport photos of the person or persons responsible for the company. Last but not least, to exploit the movie in Morocco, a cultural visa is delivered by the Director of the CCM, after being reviewed by a competent authority.
Reaching an International Audience
Angus Finney, in his book entitled “The International Film Business” said that the industry “stands on a delicate cusp” because the “local audiences and communities are rising up, demanding culturally specific stories that explore their own communities. Even the studios are conceding that American ‘world series’ sports movies or homogenized, formulaic romantic-comedies set in Long Island are failing to rock audiences from Angora to Zagreb.”
Morocco seems to satisfy the demand that Angus Finney describes in his book; a flourishing hub of history, and a land where that culturally specific story can exist. Follow a few administrative steps, and you can start shooting your next movie in Morocco.
Image under http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en