- Title: MOROCCO: Third International Film Festival for Women gets underway
- Date: 30th September 2009
- Summary: FOUR PEOPLE HOLDING BANNER READING: (English) "SAVE CINEMAS IN MOROCCO"
- Embargoed: 15th October 2009 13:00
- Location: Morocco
- Country: Morocco
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz
- Reuters ID: LVAZ617FSPEF4N7QM2I8PAFUDL9
- Story Text: The 3rd International Film Festival for Women in Sale, Morocco, kicked off on Sunday (September 28).
The event is devoted entirely to films made by female directors tackling women's issues, making it a unique event in the Arab world.
Filmmakers from 15 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas are taking part in the official competition, which is being judged by an international panel of female directors and producers.
Fans lined the street in Sale beside the entrance to the festival waiting to catch a glimpse of some of the attending film stars and directors.
The festival's director, and chairman of the Bou Regreg Association which promotes the city of Sale, Noureddine Chemaou, told the audience at the opening ceremony that the festival was aimed at giving women prominent status by focusing on their interests and ambitions.
"We are paying tribute to women who are directors and producers and also to a cinema devoted to women's issues, which are men's issues as well. We wanted to be different from other festivals by concentrating our efforts on cinema for women only," Chemaou said.
The festival is designed to pay homage to the women, who have contributed relentlessly to the promotion of cinema and who have devoted their lives and talents to conveying messages they think should be heard by everyone.
The director of the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre, Noureddine Sayel, one of the festival's main partners, said that female directors make 40 percent of the total films made in Morocco every year. He said that apart from a few European countries, Morocco was the only Arab and African State that could boast organising a festival fully dedicated to cinema made by women.
"I find it extraordinary to have a jury made up only of women who are extremely important in their profession. It is also remarkable to have 12 or 14 films all made by women directors with a particular sensitivity. This sensitivity has the right to exist and should exist," Sayel said.
This year's festival also coincides with celebration marking 50 years of Moroccan cinema, and the festival is paying special tribute to six Moroccan women directors -- Farida Bourkia, Farida Belyazid, Imane Mesbahi, Yasmine Kessari, Narjess Nejjar and Leila Kilani -- for their contributions over the years.
The women received trophies marking the occasion with standing ovations. But these women, especially the pioneers among them, had to fight very hard to make a name for themselves in a profession that is male dominated.
Farida Belyazid remembers that when she started making films in the early eighties, she was not warmly welcomed by the cinema fraternity.
"Of course, there were problems with men who were dominating this profession. They did not accept my presence among them as a filmmaker and as a director. But with time, I proved that I was an able director and the people got used to my presence. With my colleague Farida Belyazid we are the pioneers in this field," Belyazid said.
The jury for this year's festival is being chaired by German actress Isolde Barth. Also on the panel is Solveig Anspach from Iceland, Yamina Chouikh from Algeria, Dana Schondelmeyer from the United States, Sandrine Ray from France, Ola Shafii from Egypt and Imane Mesbahi from Morocco.
French director Sandrine Ray said she was delighted to be part of the event.
"It is really nice to be here and to meet all these female directors who are making films. There were six of them on the stage in a country than is not producing many films. It's a chance. It's magnificent," she said.
The third edition of the festival was delayed by a year because in 2008 Sale did not have a cinema capable of meeting the requirements of hosting the international event.
Festival organisers faced the dilemma of carrying on with the event, and showing the films in inadequate and poorly equipped cinemas or waiting until an appropriate solution was found. They opted for the second choice, choosing to rent a theatre, restoring it completely with new seating and projection equipment, enabling this year's festival to go ahead as planned, with the added bonus of giving the public a working cinema throughout the year.
Palestinian cinema is the guest of honour at this year's festival.
During the opening ceremony, Palestinian Alia Arasoughly, who directed "The Clothes Line" and "After the Last Sky," was handed a trophy from poet Abdellatif Laabi.
The festival pays tribute to 18 other Palestinian women, who turned to film-making to tell the outside world about life and conflict in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere where Palestinians live in exile.
Twenty five documentaries and short films made by Palestinian women working behind the camera are to be screened during the festival.
Among them are: "The Way Back Home" and "What's Next?" by Ghada Teraoui, "All That Remains" and "Four Songs for Palestine" by Nada El-Yassir, and "25 Kilometres" and "The Fourth Room" by Nahid Awwad.
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