The journey from Casablanca airport to Marrakesh takes approximately two and a half hours by road. I’m behind on plane travel, but I’m stumbling, standard running procedure for a film critic landing at a new destination halfway around the world.
The 19th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, held in person after a two-year gap, is a compendium of films from around the world, with a special focus on Arab and African cinema. She maintains her long and deep association with Bollywood. Ranveer Singh the main attraction of this year, whose opening on the red carpet sparked a frenzy of crowds.
As the opening films begin, the animated film “Pinocchio,” co-directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson, checks all the boxes: it may have been an unintended match for Italian jury president Paolo Sorrentino, but given the overarching themes of the beloved Italian tale about a lasting relationship Between father and son against the backdrop of the rise of Mussolini and fascism, it seems to fit in well with the current era, where most of the world is turning to the right.
When the lovable young son of the skilled woodcarver Geppetto was killed in an air raid that destroyed the town’s church, he was heartbroken. The years pass by, and he grows up and becomes gray, and his frustration grows more and more.
And then one day, the wooden boy he makes out of logs comes back to life. Pinocchio, with his long nose and long knuckles, becomes the son he has lost: happiness, as the film strongly emphasizes, lies in the acceptance and resilience of the human spirit. Good lessons for tough times (please see our detailed review when the movie premieres in December).
Sorrentino leads a prominent jury, although he said at the conference this morning that he would like to be a regular member rather than a formal chairperson. Care was taken to preserve gender equality in the jury and its diversity: Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, Moroccan director Leila Marrakchi, British actress Vanessa Kirby, German actress Diane Kruger, Danish director Susanne Brier, for the company, Australian director Justin Kurzel, and French-Algerian actor Tahir Rahim. He was unable to attend two members, American actor and producer Oscar Isaac, of Gautemala and Brier roots.
So del Toro could not, sending a short message to the festive gathering, full of tuxedos and gowns. But all the absences were wiped out by the super effervescent Ranveer Singh, who danced on stage in a flashy embroidered jacket. Honoring a full range of his films is one of the highlights of the festival. And going by the raving crowds who lined the red carpet, as well as a conversation with the star, so is he.
“I love Hindi movies, don’t you love Hindi movies,” he shouted into the crowd. It was clearly a rhetorical question. You could hear the cheers ripple through the audience, holding the trophy high, which was handed out by cheerful festival president Melissa Toscana de Blantyre.
Nothing like a Bollywood star to steal every scene he enters into.
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