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INDUSTRY / MARKET Europe / Morocco

An array of promising talent graces the Atlas Workshops

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- The selections for this exceptional online edition included the upcoming films by Alaa Eddine Aljem, Joel Karekezi, Namir Abdel Messeeh and Hind Meddeb, as well as Sofia Alaoui’s first feature

An array of promising talent graces the Atlas Workshops
Director Sofia Alaoui, who received the ArteKino International Award for Parmi nous, her feature debut

Unspooling online, between 30 November and 3 December, on account of the health crisis, the 3rd edition of the Atlas Workshops (launched with Netflix’s support) which is the professional arm of the International Film Festival Marrakech (now steered by Rémi Bonhomme), shone a light on a selection of 23 titles - 10 of which are in development while a further 5 are either in the shooting or post-production phase - in a virtual co-production market which gathered together over 300 international professionals. The event proved a fantastic opportunity for identifying emerging talent hailing from the burgeoning film industry of the African continent, and for wrangling a taste of the works which will very likely steal headlines at the bigger festivals in the very near future (last year, the Atlas Workshops presented, in post-production, Dieudo Hamadi’s Downstream to Kinshasa [+see also:
film review
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film profile
]
, which went on to bag itself Cannes’ 2020 Official Selection label, not to mention Ismaël El Iraki’s Zanka Contact [+see also:
film review
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film profile
]
, which won an award recently in Venice’s Orizzonti section); promising talents of whom many have already secured European partners.

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In the category of projects in development, the ArteKino International Award was bestowed upon Parmi nous, which will be the debut feature film by Sofia Alaoui (who walked away with this year’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize for her short film Qu’importe si le bêtes meurent). The story revolves around Itto, a young woman from a modest, rural background who has had to learn the codes of the upper-middle classes ever since being propelled into her husband Amine’s family. When the latter find themselves stranded several hours from home as a result of a mysterious event, Itto, pregnant and on the verge of labour, will be forced to emancipate herself and embark upon an adventure in order to reach them during an ongoing state of emergency in Morocco... Steered by French firm Wrong Films in league with Morocco’s Jiango Films, the feature film is due to begin shooting in August next year. Parisian group Totem Films have already agreed to take on international sales.

Likewise distinguishing itself was Eldorado, which will be the second feature by Alaa Eddine Aljem who was discovered at Cannes’ Critics’ Week 2019 via The Unknown Saint [+see also:
film review
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film profile
]
(Morocco’s candidate for the 2021 Oscars). Overseen by Italy’s Francesca Duca on behalf of her company Le Moindre Geste (based in Marrakech), the project revolves around a group of migrants who are looking to reach Eldorado, a secret, utopian island where everyone lives in peace, and who find themselves in a factory of the same name which produces tomato sauce.

Another work glistening in the showcase was Le Lion de la Teranga by Joel Karekezi, whose previous film The Mercy of the Jungle [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Joël Karekezi
film profile
]
turned heads in Toronto back in 2018. Produced by French group Tact Production and co-produced by Karekezi Film (Rwanda), Neon Rouge (Belgium) and Indigo Mood (Senegal), the project plunges the viewer into the early 1990s, in the wake of Senegalese captain Mbaye Diagne who is transferred from his homeland to Kigali, Rwanda, and thrust into the midst of a raging ethnic civil war. Deployed as an unarmed UN observer, he is a member of the UNAMIR peacekeeping force tasked with implementing a power-sharing agreement between the Hutu government and the rebel, Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front. Mbaye tries to warn his superiors that a genocide is brewing, but all his attempts prove futile and the massacres begin. In defiance of the danger and of his orders, he risks his own life making countless journeys to transport war victims in his jeep, passing through deadly checkpoints to deliver his passengers to the few safe spaces in the capital…

Similarly mention-worthy are the documentary projects Life After Siham by Namir Abdel Messeeh (The Virgin, the Copts and Me [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), steered by French firm Les Films d’Ici, Sudan Revolution Stories by Hind Meddeb (whose work Paris Stalingrad [+see also:
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film profile
]
was well-received in Toronto last year), produced by French outfit Les Mangroves, and Koli-Wali by Leila Thiam, a debut feature film revolving around a member of the Central African Republic’s women’s football team (produced by Makongo Films [+see also:
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]
in league with Dieudo Hamadi’s Congolese firm Kiripi Films and Italian group Karta Film).

Stealing focus among the fiction projects on offer were The Dream Betrayed Me by Mohammad Shaikhow, helmed by German firm Mîtosfilm, and The Storms by Dania Reymond-Boughenou (steered by France’s Les Films de l’autre Cougar).

And finally, in terms of Atlas’ post-production awards, two titles in the shooting stages were singled out by the jury: the documentary Rising Up at Night by Congolese director Nelson Makengo (a production steered by Motutu, alongside Belgium’s Twenty Nine Studio & Production and Germany’s Film Five) and the surrealist comedy Feathers [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 by Egyptian filmmaker Omar El Zohairy, a work produced by French film Still Moving in co-production with Egypt’s Clinic Films, Dutch group Kepler Film and Greek outfit Heretic.

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(Translated from French)

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