"Cinema is the perfect medium for Morocco and the Canary Islands to communicate better" - La Provincia
Sarim Fassi-Fihri is one of the most important figures of Moroccan culture. He holds positions of such importance as president of the Professional Association of Film Producers, president of the Association of Audiovisual Production and Cinema Companies, or administrator of the Foundation of the Marrakech International Film Festival. However, since October 2, 2014, he is the director of the Moroccan Cinematographic Center, position of maximum responsibility, appointed directly by the King at the proposal of the Government, which also makes him the only authority that allows journalists access to the country and that grants licenses for filming of films and documentaries.
In Morocco, he organizes activities related to the seventh art and is active in the cinematographic associative world. He has also been a key personality in the regulation and development of the Moroccan film sector, so King Mohamed VI inaugurated in Rabat in 2014 the Museum of Modern Art and Contemporary Art that bears his name. Fassi-Fihri is very well-known also in France where, for his work in the diffusion of the cinematography in French, they have granted him the honorary title of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic. As an entrepreneur he is the creator of the Moroccan Productions & Services and owns the Cinedina Studios in Casablanca. He has produced more than 200 films, among them Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (2002), OSS 117: Cairo, nest of spies (2006) or Les Rois Mages (2001).
What is the main reason for your visit to Gran Canaria?
Meet with the professionals of the audiovisual sector of the islands and study and establish possible ways of collaboration between Morocco and the Canary Islands, with the possibility of showing the films of my country in the festivals of Movie theater of the islands. And, in turn, take the films from here to Morocco. Our mission in the center is to promote Moroccan cinema both in Morocco and abroad. It is very important to communicate better with our neighbors and the best way is that they can see our cinema and we can see theirs.
How was the meeting with Las Palmas professionals?
We have proposed films for the Festival de las Palmas and we are reflecting on organizing a Moroccan Film Week in the archipelago as a whole because this has shared interests.
What would you highlight about Moroccan cinema in a global context?
Moroccan cinema is today important in the Arab world, since an average of 25 feature films are created per year. The Moroccan cinema is a free cinema, produced by private companies, emerges from private corealisers who choose their own subjects. It can be drama, social, comedy, history, etc. Everyone chooses what they want, is the freedom of creativity of each one.
Do you know your cinema well in Morocco?
Morocco is one of the rare countries that the first three films at the top of the box office are Moroccan films and not of American origin. The industry of the country has created comedies that later, when being projected in the commercial rooms, they have surpassed in collection to the Americans of a continuous way.
Who are the most outstanding authors of his cinema?
We have well-known authors such as Jihali Ferhati, Hidran Losri and Nahil Ayouch, who have been selected at the last Berlin Festival, or Mohcire Besri. In 2018 titles have been produced that address historical issues such as Apatride Y Jahilya dealing with the conflict center Morocco and Algeria during the Black March or the cancellation of the Feast of the Lamb in 1996. And other more social of the type Une urgence ardinaire or The plage des enfants perdus about current family ties.
How does the country's industry work at the moment?
There are two types of movies currently. There is the cinema for the great festivals and the cinema for the public. The cinema for the public is very difficult to export because we have the American competition. The Spanish audiovisual is now better known around the world thanks to the television series La casa de papel, but this is an exception. We find place in important Festivals like Venice, Cannes, Locarno or Korea. But at the level of visibility is very complicated.
In which language do movies usually roll?
Half in French and the other in Arabic. Many directors in the world roll in English to be able to later finance their product better, but this is not the case.
And in what situation is Spanish?
We had a distribution of films in Spanish in the north, but the loss of the public around the world has caused the closure of many cinemas and affected this company. But we are aware of the importance of the language, knowing that 20% of the Moroccan population speaks Spanish and that all Spanish language centers are overbooked.
What does Moroccan cinema represent in the African context?
Today we consider that there are three powers: Egypt, South Africa Y Morocco. South Africa has a little more weight. Soon vascula is between Egypt and Morocco, that are distributed that second place.
In which part of the country are the most important studies?
The most important are mainly between White House and in the region of Ouarzazate Casablanca because there is the Moroccan industry, but then all the foreign production that comes along ends up using Ouarzazate.
And the United States?
There are many films that have been produced in Morocco. Currently we have the last season of the series Homeland Y Game of Thrones, and films like Gladiator, Mission impossible, the last James Bond, the last of Clint Eastwood, etc.
How would you summarize the History of Moroccan cinema?
There are two stories. One that begins in 1968 with the first feature film. And there is that of foreign cinema that has been around for a century, since 1919. Morocco has always welcomed foreign productions because it is a very varied and light country, there is political stability, and Moroccans are very hospitable.