Morocco is back in the game after being hit hard by two major Covid lockdowns and a downturn in foreign productions travelling there to shoot. The country’s reputation for relative political stability in an otherwise turbulent region played its part in attracting overseas partners back to the storied North African nation.
In March 2022, the government council amended a decree “setting the conditions and procedures for subsidies for film production, digitisation, the renovation and creation of cinemas and the organisation of film festivals”.
The decree bolstered the percentage of support for foreign audiovisual production from 20% to 30%. With the uptick in the rebate on qualifying expenses as well as exemptions on VAT — which runs at between 10% and 20% depending on the item — Morocco hopes to strengthen its allure for foreign productions and reach “one percent of the total value of global investments, estimated at €30bn [$32.4bn]” by 2025, according to a government statement.
Bordering the Atlantic and Mediterranean, Morocco offers deserts, mountains, oases and big skies. There is also cultural capital Marrakech (home to the annual film festival) with its Medina, a Unesco world heritage site that dates back to medieval times. It is also home to a slew of impressive monuments including the Koutoubia mosque, the Kasbah, battlements, souks (markets) and gardens. There is also the Bahia Palace, the Ben Youssef Madrasa historical site, the Saadian Tombs, myriad grand riads (courtyards) and Jemaa El Fna, an open-air theatre. Southeast of Marrakech, in the Draa-Tafilalet region, is Ouarzazate, a city dubbed Africa’s Hollywood, which plays home to several studios including Atlas, Ouarzazate and CLA Studios.
International producers cite Morocco’s fine weather, great light, network of established line production companies and experienced crew pool as reasons to shoot in the country. Still, there is work to be done to bring back international productions. During Covid, business dropped by nearly 75% as curfews operated and the country shut its borders.
BBC-backed Second World War TV drama SAS: Rogue Heroes — from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight — was one of the first big productions to touch down over the summer of 2020, with Morocco doubling for Cairo and other Middle Eastern locations.
The territory is gearing up to host a raft of big international productions, though doubts linger over Kevin Scott Frakes’ live-action adaptation of Paulo Coelho’s novel The Alchemist after pre-production was halted in 2021 amid reports of undisclosed obstacles. The Alchemist had reportedly earmarked Marrakech, the picturesque ramparted Atlantic port of Essaouira, the Saharan oasis town of Erfoud and the historic city of Fez as locations. The latter was also one of the settings for the fifth Indiana Jones film, although filming was disrupted in late 2021 by Covid, when flights between Morocco and the UK — where the production was based — were suspended.
According to the annual report of the Centre Cinématographique Marocain (CCM), the total spend for incoming productions fell by 73.5% to $23.8m (mad234m) in 2020, against $81m (mad796m) in 2019. Within this, eight features spent $6m (mad59m) against $27m (mad265.3m) by 22 features in 2019, and nine TV shows spent $13.2m (mad130m) against $51m (mad504m) by 16 shows in 2019.
John Michael McDonagh’s drama The Forgiven, starring Jessica Chastain and Ralph Fiennes, shot in early 2020 while Korean director Kim Song-hun’s Kidnapped and German action thriller Zielfahnder 3 also filmed in Morocco.
Morocco is one of the most popular destinations in the Middle East and North Africa for international film and high-end TV productions. The country’s key draws include its varied picture-book Middle Eastern backdrops and landscapes, ranging from the historic medinas of cities such as Marrakesh to the teeming streets of Casablanca and Tangier, and the Sahara desert and Atlas mountains.
“There is also the light, which is very good, with longer days and very little rainfall,” says Morocco-based location manager Christian McWilliams, whose recent credits include The Old Guard and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. “You don’t go to Morocco to shoot inside; you go to shoot outside. It’s very rare you’ll ever lose a day because of the weather.”
Added to this is the country’s reputation for relative political stability in an otherwise turbulent region, and established production services ecosystem.oting as soon as possible.
CLA Studios and Atlas Studios are close to Ouarzazate, and Cinedina Studios is in Casablanca. Morocco has a pool of experienced crew across all departments, including cinematography, lighting, sound, set design, costume, as well as hair and makeup, although most incoming productions bring in their own department heads. Line production companies include Dune Films, Zak Productions, K Films, Kasbah Films Tangier, Agora Films, H Films, BO Film Services, Ali N’ Films, Lion Production & Service and Mont Fleuri.
First people to contact
Moroccan Cinema Centre, email@example.com
Slightly larger than California, Morocco is a compact country with good rail, road and air networks.