We know that all is not as it appears in the movies – but especially, it seems, if the film is set in the desert! Intrepid’s Summer Davis shines the spotlight on Morocco’s growing movie business…
“Othello, Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Kundun – any idea where these movies were filmed? How about Casablanca? Most people only know Morocco for its famed Hollywood role in this 1942 Oscar for Best Picture, even though in this case, production never left the Los Angeles studios.
Morocco’s stardom extends far beyond Humphrey Bogart and Rick’s Café. Its Sahara provided the backdrop for Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, the kasbah at Ait Ben Haddou housed Russell Crowe’s town in Gladiator, the Atlas mountains towered behind the monks’ monastery in Kundun and Orson Wells escaped to Essaouira’s cobblestone plazas for his own Othello. And let’s not forget the dusty desert villages of the more recent Babel and the blistering battlefields of Black Hawk Down, which both bill Morocco as a film location.
Yes, Hollywood infiltrated this North African land long ago. Attracted by its breathtaking landscapes, authenticity and inexpensive wages, the dramatic deserts of the Mahgreb enticed filmmakers. Established in 1983 by Moroccan Mohamed Belghmi, the Atlas Studios of Ouarzazate still stand, home to multiple movie sets and a lobby full of posters for pictures shot on site. While the list of popular western movies filmed in Morocco lengthens, it rivals the over 100 foreign and local films produced in the country.
The growing industry has spawned production houses in Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech and Tangiers as well as prompted an annual international film festival. The Festival International du Film de Marrakech draws Hollywood and European film stars to Morocco’s glamorous desert city for nine days of screenings, awards and parties, boasting such prestigious jury as Roman Polanski.
So if you haven’t seen The Mummy, Moses or The Man Who Knew Too Much, there’s more of Morocco waiting for you on the silver screen.”
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* photo by Vivien Leung – Intrepid Photography Competition