By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, August 20, 2012
The government will present in the forthcoming days a new set of specifications regarding the national film industry. These regulations will be soon submitted to the parliament for thorough examination.
The MPs are expected to adopt the initial draft of the specifications or to issue new amendments similarly to audiovisual sector regulations that had prompted a heated debate under the parliament dome in April 2012.
According to the Moroccan daily “l’Economiste” the specifications will be officially presented by Mr. Al Khalfi, the minister of communication during the government council session next Thursday before they reach parliament.
The long awaited specifications are intended to reform drastically the management of resources in Moroccan cinema. The major issues in the spotlight are the inadequacy of film distribution and the situation of movie theaters marked by a steady decline in audience attendance all over the country.
The new specifications are expected to address three key points: Subsidies for film production, the management of artistic festivals and the introduction of digital technology to movie theaters. Mr. Al Khalfi was keen on consulting the major players in the film industry namely the Moroccan Cinematographic Center (MCC), the Chamber of Film Technicians, the Chamber of Film Distributors, and the Film Producers Union.
The government entrusted 11 cinema professionals with the task of forming the commission in charge of assessing the eligibility of cinematographic projects for funding. Mohammed Belghouat, president of the Studies and Development Department pinpoints” Quality is the primary criteria considered in granting subsidies to new projects”.
This measure is liable to give a new impetus to film production. Nevertheless, the MCC president makes it clear that the government will not grant more than 2/3 of the projects overall budget.
The new specifications address also the management and organization of film festivals. The specifications outline new eligibility criteria. The third part of the specification is intended to address the movie theaters’ crisis. The prospects remain dire for movie theaters increasingly shun by film goers.
The first project suggests a shift to digital technology used in the projection of motion pictures. The government intends to group the existing cinema venues into movie theaters complex known as multiplex liable to put an end to the bankruptcy of major movie theater companies.
In a press conference attended previously by MWN, the minister of communication al Khalfi had announced drastic reforms in the media sector including films production, especially in terms of governance and empowering human resources by providing trainings and new technologies to the sector’s professionals.
The government intends also to provide public funding for film-makers to foster competence and pluralism in film-making through an objective approach that does not impinge on artistic freedom.
In an interview to MWN, Mustapha Taleb, a Moroccan cinema critic gives an appraisal to the situation of the Moroccan film production.
“The Moroccan film sector has made substantial progress since the 60’s in terms both of production and technical expertise. It has evolved from making 2 films annually in the 60’S to the production of 19 films in 2011”
When asked about the reasons behind this progress, Mr. Taleb explains: “Film production in Morocco has thrived mainly due to state subsidies. Cinema has always been perceived by decision makers as a real leverage for both cultural and economic progress. The creation of institutions and funds to sponsor new projects in 1980as well as the revision of the existing regulations in 1987 has sustained this growth”.
Mr.Taleb adds” In 2004, the sector was revived by new regulations that granted more state subsidies to film makers who could focus more on quality and artistic creation. The total amount of state subsidies has reached now 60 million Dh per year”
In regards to the predicament in the national film sector, Mr. Taleb pinpoints “Despite the state support, the film sector has relapsed into a new spiral of crisis especially with the bankruptcy of major movie theater companies. In fact, the number of theaters opened to public audiences dropped from 260 to 40. The lack of transparency is major impediment to the revival of the sector. The eligibility criteria for film aid remain unknown to the professionals. Funds are often granted on different a ground which nurtures favoritism and patronage rather than good governance”.
Mr. Taleb points to another problem affecting film making in Morocco”. The emergence of a new category of movies that highlights sexuality, nudity, vulgar language without any underlying message has diverted the attention from quality to sensationalism. Many film makers and actors opted for this kind of negative provocation as a shortcut to fame. This shallow approach to film making is not conducive of social or cultural change”
Mr. Taleb adds: “Though Moroccan film studios have become one of the most sought after locations especially by Hollywood film makers, Morocco has been unable to lay the foundations of a strong national film industry with international standards.
When asked about the prospects for the sector under the new government, Mr. Taleb replies” I remain optimistic since Moroccan films are highly acclaimed in international festivals. Nevertheless, we cannot predict a promising future to Moroccan cinema unless we consolidate transparency and good governance in compliance with our cultural values”
It is of note that the specification for the audiovisual sector had polarized the public opinion. The officials at the helm of the major media companies SNRT and 2M as well as the opposition considered that the regulations issued for the audiovisual sector gives the executive the upper as far as TV programming is concerned which undermines the concept of separation of powers. The regulations in the film sector are more likely to open a new debate.