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15  07  2008

Interview with Abdelhak Sakhi, Head of Production at the Moroccan Cinema Centre (CCM)

Morocco: rise in films made as co-productions reach 43% of total production

Euromed: In recent years, Moroccan film production has experienced a significant upsurge. What are the main reasons for this development?

Abdelhak Sakhi: After almost 50 years, Moroccan cinema is now showing signs of a certain maturity and, as carrier of both development and cultural exchange, particularly in recent years it has been benefiting from the support of the national film production fund, whose resources rose from 1 million euro in 2003 to 5.5 million euro in 2006.

Just think: in 2007, 6 films out of the top 10 in Morocco were local films. Not even co-productions but home-grown films. This is a real turnaround, especially vis-à-vis American films. 2 Moroccan films were at the top, followed by two American films, which in turn were followed by 4 Moroccan films. In the ninth spot was a French film. The figures speak for themselves and demonstrate a real swing on the part of Moroccan audiences towards local films.

Euromed: Is it a question of improved quality or just a higher quantity of films being produced?

Abdelhak Sakhi: Both. Between 2003 and 2007, 53 local films were produced. In the last 5 years, film production has risen from 8 to 15 films a year. But the quality has improved too. The CCM now houses a lab furnished with the latest technology so Moroccan filmmakers don’t need to go abroad anymore and post-production can be done locally. Professionalism is also a factor. Morocco has almost 1400 professionals officially accredited in the sector, to say nothing of those working in the field unofficially.

Euromed: But various co-production treaties have also been signed with foreign countries. Can you give some figures relating to the co-productions made under them?

Abdelhak Sakhi: Certainly. Between 1958 and 2007, 46 out of 181 productions were co-produced, making co-productions 25% of the total. But a recent increase in co-productions has meant that of the 53 feature films produced between 2003 and 2007, 23 were co-productions, making them 43% of the total.

Euromed: Which countries were these co-productions with?

Abdelhak Sakhi: First and foremost, 9 films were made with France, followed by Tunisia with 5, Mali with 2 and Algeria, Egypt, Senegal, Chad, Belgium, Spain, Germany and Canada with 1 film each.

Of the 23 co-productions, 11 were made in post-production – that is, 52%. These figures speak volumes because they show that co-producers are attracted to both Morocco’s natural and man-made landscape, the professionalism of its technicians and the film infrastructure that Morocco has to offer. For these reasons, various countries, particularly in Africa, turn to the CCM to help co-produce their films in Morocco.

Euromed: Some of the co-productions have also met with a good deal of success.

Abdelhak Sakhi: Yes, for instance, Where are you going Moshe?, co-produced with Canada, and What a Wonderful World, which was co-produced with Canada and Germany. These films have participated in numerous festivals and - thanks to Euromed Cinemas, one of the Euromed projects - have been seen in many European as well as Arab countries.

Euromed: What are the positive aspects of co-productions?

Abdelhak Sakhi: There are several. Firstly, you have access to the benefits and financial support available to local productions. You are also able to seek other private or public financing contributions in the co-producing countries in order to meeting the rising costs of film production. Finally, the fact that the film is a co-production enhances the foreign distribution prospects of a film.

Euromed: But are there also any downsides?

Abdelhak Sakhi: Yes. For instance, when co-productions participate in cultural events, they take part under the nationality of the majority co-producing country as set out in the relevant co-production treaty.