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Here is a colour piece (mostly red, as in carpet) on this year’s Marrakech film festival (Nov 30 – December 8, 2012) from our man in Marrakech, Nick Roddick, who sees Catherine Deneuve fuming and Shahrukh Khan high fiving. And how the heavy rain separated the wannabes from the real celebs ...

The Festival International du Film de Marrakech is a Moroccan clone of the Festival International du Film de Cannes, which is to say it is very French, very well-organised and has an enormous fleet of top-of-the-line Renaults to ferry the great, the good and the culturally significant from place to place, even if those places are not very far apart and it would have been quicker to walk.

For its 12th edition, which kicked off on Friday night (November 30), the FIFM also managed to borrow the weather from this year’s Cannes, which is to say that it rained. A lot. Red carpets – which are not made out of carpet at all but out of some strange synthetic fibre closest in consistency to a bath mat - turn very nasty in the rain: sticky, leprous and water-retentive. As it was, on Friday night, an actual bath mat would have been more useful. The normally benign Moroccan weather went from gentle sunshine in the morning to wind-lashed torrential rain by tea-time.

"Nothing, however, stops a red carpet ceremony"

Nothing, however, stops a red carpet ceremony, whose timings are worked out to the nearest 30 seconds, which is how long it takes a limo to sweep up, uniformed attendants to yank open its doors, and the celebrities to explode outwards, all teeth, waving hands and, in the case of the female stars, legs. From there on, it’s a process of step, pause, pout… and repeat. On Friday night in Marrakech, however, where there are less steps than Cannes, it was more a question of finding the man with the umbrella.

Not all the beautiful people escaped undrenched. As the headlights of the limo swung in, you could see that the ground beneath the car had turned into a small, swift-flowing river. It might almost have been planned as a way of sorting the celebs from the overdressed wannabes. The wannabes tried to hoick up their evening dresses, leap across or find a way round (there was none). The true celebs acted as if the river wasn’t there. Indeed, for them, it wasn’t. River? What river? The fans awaited. The cameras and lights were on. Can’t let them down for the sake of a water-logged Labourtin.

And so a procession of cinema luminaries negotiated the red bath mat, from minor Moroccan media figures to major movie players. John Boorman, president of the jury, Terence Stamp, a jury member and star of selected (though obviously not competing) film A Song for Marion. Gemma Arterton, also on the jury, also in Song for Marion, wearing the evening’s best dress and well on the way from her Quantum of Solace breakthrough to major stardom.

"And maybe a bit of trend-setting as well"

And maybe a bit of trend-setting as well. She’s due soon to be seen in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Do I spot a new trend, in the wake of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Put a legendary figure, real or otherwise, on the trail of some monster and, shazaam, you have a genre. Look out for Pooh and Piglet’s Great Vampire Adventure. Or Dot and the Werewolf.

By the time the French took to the carpet on Saturday, the weather had improved slightly. There was Nathalie Baye, Monica Bellucci (the French have adopted her) and the inevitable, immovable Catherine Deneuve, who was there to present a statuette to ‘Hindi cinema’. About which, she said, she did not know a great deal. Indeed her later on-stage presentation, with its fluffed text and missed cues, suggested she hadn’t done much research – or rehearsing - either.

"But Hindi cinema had the last laugh"

But Hindi cinema had the last laugh. On the red carpet, the cameras abruptly abandoned her to seek out Shahrukh Khan, the most famous movie star on the planet, causing traffic jams wherever he goes, his fame exploding out across Marrakech like a starburst. Leaving Deneuve fuming, the cameras chased SRK as he high-fived and autograph-signed his way, not just along the press line but the whole approach road, delaying the start of the show by half an hour – and all without getting a hair out of place. An hour-and-a-half later, he repeated the trick to an open-air audience of 10,000 or more, setting off to meet-and-greet as his security detail trailed nervously in his wake.

Shahrukh Khan, the most famous movie star on the planet

Earlier, inside the Palais des Congrès, Khan introduced Jab tak hai jaan (Until My Last Breath), the last film of the great Bollywood director Yash Chopra, with an emotional, pitch-perfect tribute truly matched by the sweeping emotion of the film itself. Most of the celebs – Deneuve included – didn’t stay for the film: they were there to be looked at, not look. Well, they were also the losers.

Published December 6, 2012

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Nick Roddick

Gemma Arterton

Catherine Deneuve

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