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Visions of Morocco In Palm Beach

When Palm Beach International Film Festival Executive Director Randi Emerman visited the Marrakech International Film Festival last year, she was not prepared for what she would find. "Not only was the Festival very grand, in terms of its presentation, dinners and receptions", Emerman shared with me over breakfast in the Filmmaker Lounge at the Mariott Delray Beach, "but I went to see a number of the local films and was astonished at their quality and scope. It occured to me then that it would be great to showcase a few films from Morocco in our program."

In a relationship with Jalil Laguili, General Secretary of the Foundation of the Marrakech International Film Festival, the two selected five films that are making their US Premieres at the Festival. The film section, entitled Visions Of Morocco, is part of a World Showcase on films from the Middle East, that includes five films from Israle and a short film co-produced by Iran and Iraq (well, if they can come together to make films, can't they come together to make peace?).

"One of the purposes of the Festival is to bring our audiences in touch with the ideas and lifestyles from other countries", Emerman stated. "When you understand life from someone else's point of view, you have to deal with them on human, not idealogical terms. That seems very important for the U.S. right now."

I've yet to see the films but they certainly sound intriguing. GOODBYE MOTHERS, which has its premiere screening tomorrow night, looks back at the early 190s, when a wave of Jewish Moroccans left their native country for Israel and Europe. In this tale, directed by Mohame Ismail, the stoy focuses on the solid bonds between two families, one Jewish, the other Muslim and how destiny and fate plays a hand as Jewish Moroccans leave a land that they have shared with their Moslem neighbors for centuries.

In another immigrant drama, ISLAMOUR, written and directed by Chraibi Saad, a Moroccan-American family is compelled to return to their native land after the events of September 11 The film deftly shows the schism between generations and the conflict between modernism and conservatism that occurs when West meets East.

Relationships between men and women, a potent subject in Moroccan cinema, is explored in two films in the program. In LES JARDINS DE SAMIRA, directed by Latif Lahlou, a young woman marries a widowed and childless farmer, only to discover that her new husband is impotent. While keeping up appearances of a normal married life, she drifts into a relationship with her youg nephew. In OUD AL WARD (The Lost Beauty), director Lahcen Zinoun sets his story in 1913, when young women were kidnapped and sold into virtual slavery into loveless marriages. The film focuses on one such young woman, whose inherent musical talent creates an unexpected tender bond with her rich master and jealousy among his other wifes and slaves.

WAITING FOR PASOLINI is another cross-cultural drama in a country that hosts many European ex-patriots and second home owners. When an Italian film crew comes to a remove village in the Atlas Mountains to prepare to shoot a historic epic, a former extra recalls his friendship with the iconic Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, who shot a film in the same village 40 years earlier. Although Pasolini had long since died, the man keeps his spirit and legacy alive.

This is a rare opportunity for U.S. audiences to see a range of Moroccan films and to get a sense of the drama, comedy and humanity of its rich culture and beautiful people.

Sandy Mandelberger, Palm Beach FF Dailies Editor on fest21.com
Watch the Palm Beach Dailies on fest21.com

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