Legendary director Orson Welles began production of his “Othello” movie in Italy, however financial challenges led to most of the film being shot near Casablanca.
Rabat – In the late 1940s, American director Orson Welles began to realize the legendary Shakespearean play “Othello” on the big screen. However, although he planned to produce the film in Italy, one of the story’s settings along with Cyprus, fate brought him to North Africa instead.
The geographical change proved to be an extreme boon for the director, and it enabled him to produce one of the most renowned classical films of cinematic history.
The play “Othello,” a story about a general in the Venetian army, was originally published in 1603 and was based on an earlier Italian novel called “Un Capitano Moro.”
The play immediately became a hit, and one of the first things that grabbed the attention of the 17th century English audience was the race of the protagonist. Othello is ambiguously described as a “Moor,” a term used during the time to describe Muslims of the Maghreb and Andalusia.
But Othello had a special connection with Morocco from the beginning. Historians have supported claims that Othello was based on Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun, the Moroccan ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I at the time. Anoun’s delegation stayed in England for six months, giving Anglo-Saxons a rare glimpse of a Moorish individual in person. Coincidentally, Othello was released a year later, according to the British Library.
When Welles was filming the cinematic version in 1948, funding problems caused Welles to constantly put the project on hold to continue work on other directors’ movies, according to Moroccan news outlets.
Eventually, the filmmaker travelled to Morocco to shoot the film, setting up in El Jadida and Essaouira, coastal cities south of Casablanca. Welles immediately fell in love with Morocco, describing it as “uncontaminated, cheaper, and historically closer to Cyprus than Italy.”
Welles finished Othello in Morocco, and it debuted in Rome in 1951. Since, the movie has become a world renowned classic.
But Morocco has not received much credit for helping create one of Welles’ most defining films. Many viewers would not be able to differentiate between the Moroccan coast and places around Europe. But Othello remains a silent salute to the silent beauty that Morocco emanates.