Morocco’s animated film industry still has a way to go

Unaging advantage. David Silverman at the International Animated Film Festival of Meknes.(Saad Guerraoui)

2017/04/23 Issue: 103 Page: 22

The Arab Weekly
Saad Guerraoui

Meknes - Moroccan artists ben­efit from the Inter­national Animated Film Festival of Me­knes (FICAM) host­ed each year by the imperial city of Meknes but the country’s ani­mated film industry has a way to go, those in the industry say.

Despite the talent displayed by students, Alexis Hunot, a French professor and cinema critic, said: “Moroccans want to create an in­dustry while they still do not pos­sess the necessary qualities to be­come illustrators.”

“For instance, some Moroccan students come to the festival to watch televised series and other specific shows but do not come to see artisans who started from scratch with little things and man­aged to build their own universe. Talent is there but it’s a shame,” Hunot, who has attended FICAM over the past ten years, added.

“I think FICAM is evolving faster than the animated cinema indus­try in Morocco.”

Abdellatif el-Ayyadi, who screened his short film “L’Oeuf” (“The Egg”) at the opening of this year’s festival in March, has a bit of a different take on the progress of the industry in the country.

The FICAM “gives us a good training that is supervised by skilled teachers in animated cin­ema” to coach them through their projects on Moroccans’ emergence in animated films, he said.

“We notice that more Moroccan short films are making their way to the festival. This is the benefit of organising such festival in Mo­rocco,” Ayyadi said.

The 16th edition of the festival, organised by the Aicha Foundation in partnership with the French In­stitute of Meknes, included work­shops, presentations and discus­sions as well as dozens of short and feature film screenings.

Each year, local film-makers compete with their storyboards for the Aicha Grand Prix of Anima­tion (GPAA) of 50,000 Moroccan dirhams — nearly $5,000. Ayyadi won the GPAA in 2013 and 2016.

Aicha Foundation President Mardochée Devico said he set it up to promote cultural activities in Meknes. “We now have the ani­mated cinema festival, which has become an important event in Me­knes. We have ambitions but we need the means to achieve our am­bitions. We are trying to get local authorities and companies more involved in the process,” Devico said.

“The objective of the festival is to promote Meknes in the whole world and Morocco as a country that shows a true interest in this special art, which is a niche in the cinema industry.”

The 16th edition of the festival closed with a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Simpsons cartoon series after “Ethel & Er­nest” had been chosen as the best-animated feature film.

The film is based on Raymond Briggs’ 1998 graphic novel about his working-class parents’ 40- year marriage, which survived the Great Depression and the second world war.

Stephan Roelants, co-producer of “Ethel & Ernest”, in accept­ing the award, said: “This festi­val is one of the most important for me because it is one of the most beautiful. We will try to come with more beautiful movies. The whole team will be formidably surprised. You give us an incred­ible energy.”

FICAM also paid homage to French director Michel Ocelot, best known for directing “Azur & Asmar: The Princes’ Quest.”

Saad Guerraoui is a regular contributor to The Arab Weekly on Maghreb issues.

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