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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Hollywood heads for Marrakesh
Palms in Marrakesh
The film industry is worth millions to Morocco

The second Marrakesh international film festival opens on Wednesday in Morocco's southern city.

Leading Hollywood film directors Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola will be guests of honour and Scorsese will receive a major Moroccan award.

Martin Scorsese
Director Martin Scorsese is to receive Morocco's highest honour

The organisers hope that, in time, the Marrakech Film Festival will grow to become Africa's version of the Cannes Festival - despite an inauspicious start.

It was launched last year only days after 11 September and as a result many participants did not attend.

Cinema is important to Morocco as a source of earnings - many films are made on location there.

Africa and Bollywood

For such a new film festival, the organisers have struck quite a coup by attracting such big name guests as Scorsese and Coppola along with David Lynch.

Scorsese will also receive Morocco's highest honour from the King, the Alaouite Medal, for his work.

Marrakesh mosaics
The old and the very new will mix at the festival

This year, nine feature films will be in competition and the jury will be presided over by legendary French actress Jean Moreau.

There will also be a competition for short films, a spotlight on African and East Asian cinema, as well as tributes to Scorsese, Lynch and Coppola and to Indian Bollywood actor Aamir Khan.

New epic

Marrakech's famous central square, the Place Jemaa el-Fna, normally home to snake-charmers and story-tellers, will be turned into an open-air cinema for the four-day festival.

Cinema is an important industry for Morocco, not because the country makes many films of its own, but because it earns millions of dollars as the location.

A second huge new film studio is currently being built in the south of the country, near Ouarzazate.

Next year filming is due to begin there of Alexander the Great, billed as the biggest historic epic since Titanic.

It will have a budget of $150 million dollars, $60 million of which will be invested in Morocco.

See also:

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