Filmmaking in Morocco, the North African nation, has moved out of the shadow of France, its former colonisers, says acclaimed Moroccan filmmaker Ahmed Boulane but admits they are influenced by Bollywood to some extent and are big fans of Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.
"We were introduced to cinema by the French but now we have moved away from their influence. Our movies have an identity of their own with distinct Moroccan flavour," Boulane, 56, said in an interview in Kolkata.
Boulane admits Moroccan films are influenced by Bollywood movies to some extent, but their content is more realistic and deal with socially and politically relevant issues.
"Bollywood movies are so melodramatic, but our movies project more on socially and politically relevant matters. Of course, we do get influenced by Indian movies but our films are more realistic, more pertinent," Boulane said.
But he quickly added: "People back home just love Indian, especially Bollywood, movies. Amitabh (Bachchan) and Shah Rukh (Khan) are as popular in Morocco as they are in India."
Boulane was here to participate in the 18th Kolkata International Film Festival with his latest film, Le Retour du Fils (Return of the Son), about a young man, who after being abducted by his French mother 15 years ago, returns to Morocco to meet his father.
Talking about the cinema from his continent - Africa, Boulane said the industry had been worst hit by piracy.
"Within a few days of its release, pirated copies of a film are freely available in the market," he said.
He said African cinema had gradually started to come of age and was getting noticed by global audience.
"But piracy is really hitting us hard, especially where we lack the most −− funds," said Boulane.
"Piracy, however, is doing one good thing - it is making African cinema popular globally!" Boulane said with a chuckle. "That does not mean I support it. It is in fact slowly killing our movie−making."
Another obstacle to the growth of Moroccan cinema is lack of cinema halls.
"Thirty years ago, we had as many as 250-300 cinemas (halls). But now there are not more than 50 left. It is mostly because of the high cost of running theatres coupled with the problem of piracy," he said.
After a stint on Moroccan TV and a stay in Italy, Boulane returned to Morocco where he worked for 25 years as actor, stage manager, casting director, assistant director before making his first short film, Journey to the Past that earned him much acclaim.
His first feature film Ali, Rabiaa et les Autres... (Ali, Rabiaa and Others) fetched him many national and international awards.
His second, "The Satanic Angels", was one of the top−earners in 2007.
Boulane said his next venture would "a reflection the present Moroccan society".
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)