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The Network - 09/09/2010


Léa Morin, Director General of The Cinematheque de Tanger, Morocco



 Since it opened three years ago, the Cinematheque de Tanger has become one of the emblematic sites for film lovers on the African continent. The photographer Yto Barrada handles the artistic direction of the film centre which includes not only two screens but also a library, a consultation centre, an editing suite, a café and a film collection.
The cinema has also been involved in the Europa Cinemas International programme since 2009 and is interested in increasing activities for young audiences. The presence of Marina Moreno (responsible for these activities) at our seminar in Bologna demonstrates the efforts they are making.
It is, therefore, a multiple and mixed place “conducive to the emergence of a cinephilia that we hope is wild and insatiable,” says its Director General, Léa Morin, who happily agreed to answer a few questions.

How was the Cinematheque de Tanger (CdT) project born and how would you define it in a few words?

The Cinematheque de Tanger was born from the desire of a group of artists to screen films that are rarely shown in Morocco, coming from beautiful faraway places, and from a desire to preserve them, to keep something of them and to perpetuate them in the eyes of the public. It opened to the public in 2007 after eight years of work, in the Cinema Rif building, a legendary movie theatre that opened in 1938.
Other than the films it shows, the Cinematheque is also a collection, mainly comprising films from the Middle East and Northern Africa. The collection includes unusual items, outside of main distribution and which we seek to find a way of bringing to the public: short films, documentaries, experimental films and artists’ films. But there are also colonial and post-colonial archives in an expandable family album, a living and nomadic patrimony of our societies which we keep alive here and take around the world with the Cartes Blanches and Hors Les Murs (Beyond the walls) programme (Paris, Gothenburg, Los Angeles, Seville, Bejaia, London ...).
In order to rekindle interest in the cinema in the young and the old alike, we decided to accentuate the details by offering more than a simple auditorium but a convivial and creative place which pleases those nostalgic for the cinema of yesteryear as much as the young.

Tell us more about your young audience activities…

Ever since the beginning, the CdT has been working to encourage its young public through specific actions: a monthly cineclub for children with La Lanterne Magique, meetings with film-makers, guests and workshops, a short film festival as well as documentary-making workshops aimed at the youth of Tangiers.
We welcome more than 1,000 children every month for La Lanterne Magique – a children’s cineclub set up in association with the Swiss organisation of the same name. It promotes the discovery of the magic of cinema through a film accompanied by a trilingual magazine and a fun little show. We also run school screenings and weekly children’s screenings.
In order to achieve all this we work closely with local partners (associations, schools, businesses, the authorities etc.), who are essential in increasing awareness among a very varied public.


What is the editorial line of your programming? For example, how have Tati’s films gone down?

The Cinematheque’s programming aims to be convivial and precise so as to bring together the widest possible audiences to see the most beautiful films in the history of Arabian and international cinema. Thus each month the audience can discover or re-discover film classics (Fassbinder, Godard, Wajda, Lloyd, Vigo, and De Seta etc.), the best contemporary cinema, on permanent re-runs during cycles or themed programming (Jia Zhang Ke, José Luis Guerín, Bahman Ghobadi, Claire Denis, Youssef Chahine, Miyazaki, Tarantino etc.) as well as films on national release.
We prioritise films which have difficulty getting shown in Morocco and we have taken the decision to keep showing them over a long period so they can find their audience (Yousry Nasrallah’s Scheherazade Tell Me a Story etc.)
Documentaries are accorded much importance as well as special screenings (European video art, experimental Mexican films etc.), workshops and performances.
We have to create a bond of trust with our audience so that they can choose for example to bring their children every week to see a work by Jacques Tati. And it’s a gamble that has paid off, as the success of the programme “Tout Tati à Tanger” proved. It opened with a Tati-concert by Rachid Taha and continued with resonant contemporary works from Fawzi Bensaidi and Elia Suleiman.

Who are your main partners and sponsors?

The Cinematheque de Tanger continues to develop new projects thanks to the support of our partners and sponsors and through donations. Our 2010 projects are backed by Culturesfrance, the Prince Claus Fund, the Agnès b. Endowment Fund, the LUMA Foundation and the Young Arab Theatre Fund.
As far as running it is concerned, public bodies and the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre (CCM) also shows a real interest in the Cinematheque de Tanger and the model it is trying out. We hope this will rapidly bear fruit.

Do you have partnerships with other cinemas or institutions in other European or Mediterranean countries?

The Cinematheque de Tanger is a founder member of the "Network of Arab ArtHouse Screens" ( ) which includes around a dozen festivals, cinemas and cineclubs in the Arab world, with the aim of sharing resources, projects and ideas. Through it, this year three NAAS programmings have taken place at the Cinematheque and in the other cinemas in the network (Djibril Diop Mambety Cycle, Revolucion Cycle, Semaine Arte). The Cinematheque de Tanger is also a partner of the CICAE and of EUROPA CINEMAS.

Do you have easy access to films, to copies?

In order to cope with the general difficulty in accessing films, we have had to invent our own model to ensure quality programming without going through the usual procedure. The number of auditoriums, just like the number of distributors, has diminished in Morocco and in fact very few films are distributed beyond the major Egyptian and American productions and national films. Also the question of the language of the film comes up regularly: while we offer films in the original version, distributors only have the films dubbed in French. How can you screen the latest Almodóvar dubbed in French in a Spanish-speaking city like Tangiers?
We work closely with Moroccan film distributors and the archives of the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre, but we also turn to other methods for a large part of our programming: international distributors, VOD, Festival reruns, programmings in network with the NAAS, foreign institutes, production companies... Our programming partners are open to the methods we suggest and thus allow us to exist and to make the Cinematheque de Tanger what it is today.

How do you plan on going digital and how long will it take?

While still retaining the other projection formats (35mm, 16mm and 8mm), we would like to go digital this year (2K) if we manage to get the necessary financing. That will help us overcome the constraints which we too often come across in accessing copies.
What impact does pirating have on your programming?
The effects of pirating are devastating. Access to all films, from the classics to latest releases, on every street corner at knockdown prices is one of the things that is holding up the development of the business in Morocco and is forcing the closure of many theatres and a drop in audience numbers.
Through their plan to rehabilitate cinemas, authorities have understood the importance of the co-existence of a commercial and dynamic cinema business (multiplexes...) and of local movie theatres and a unique place like the Cinematheque de Tanger. They have announced the opening of more than 300 auditoriums in a project to fight against pirating.

How do you promote Moroccan production and, more particularly, the works of young directors?

We choose to screen the most interesting and daring Moroccan films on national release, even if they can’t find distributors (like Réveil by Mohamed Zineddaine or Fissures by Hicham Ayouch). We show them for a long time, organise meetings with the film team and combine the screenings with earlier long or short films by the same director so the work of the Moroccan film-makers becomes better known.
We also hold regular screenings elsewhere than in our auditoriums, through invitations from cinemas, cinematheques and festivals throughout the world: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Three Continents Festival at Nantes or the Konsthallen in Gothenburg for example. 
On top of our regular programming, we run a national short film competition, meetings with directors, film-making workshops (editing, sound, documentary directing, writing etc.), artists in residence and student exchanges like in September with Lausanne’s University of Art and Design. We are very proud that a director in residence at the Cinematheque, Oliver Laxe, won the Fipresci prize at the Directors’ Fortnight at the last Cannes Film Festival.

Interview led by Nathalie Baranger and Menem Richa
September 2010

- Léa Morin, Director General
- Main screen of the Cinematheque de Tanger
- Yto Barrada, Artistic Director