Richard Linklater’s action comedy “Hit Man” is set to open the Marrakech International Film Festival, which has announced its lineup of more than 70 films mixing known titles and fresh fare.
The fest is forging ahead with its 20th edition, which will run Nov. 24- Dec.2 in the ancient Moroccan city despite the Israel-Hamas conflict that has caused cancellations of several other fests in the region, as well as the earthquake that hit the country in September.
“Hit Man,” for which organizers declined to specify whether talent will attend, will screen as part of Marrakech’s red carpet gala screenings. Italian director Matteo Garrone is expected to make the trek for the gala of his Venice prizewinning immigration drama “Io Capitano” and Michel Franco will be coming to present another Venice prizewinner, “Memory,” starring Jessica Chastain, who is presiding over the fest’s main jury.
Also expected on hand for a Marrakech gala launch are “The Mentalist” star Simon Baker with Australian director Ivan Sen’s politically charged “Limbo” and Alexander Payne for the Middle East launch of his 1970s-set comedy “The Holdovers” starring Paul Giamatti. Moroccan director Faouzi Bensaidi will present “Deserts,” his slapstick take on the Western genre involving two Casablanca debt collectors.
The jury will award Marrakech’s Étoile d’Or to one of 14 first- and second-time feature films in the competition, which is dedicated to the discovery of global talent.
A major cultural event in Morocco, Marrakech is one of the only international festivals of this scale where screenings and masterclasses are free and open to the public.
Among previously announced special guests is Martin Scorsese, who will be coming to serve as official patron of the Atlas Workshops, the festival’s industry initiative which is aimed at fostering and supporting the emergence of a new generation of Moroccan, Arab and African filmmakers.