Karim Debbagh‘s leading Tangier-based line producer Kasbah Films has secured a raft of U.S. and U.K. projects that will lense in Morocco, including “Lords of War,” the sequel to “Lord of War,” starring Nicolas Cage as the world’s most notorious arms dealer.
While attending the Marrakech Film Festival, Debbagh spoke to Variety about his work on “Lords of War,” which is expected to start shooting in March for approximately 40 days and is being produced by Philippe Rousselet and Fabrice Gianfermi (“CODA,” “Lord of War”), alongside Cage’s Saturn Films. Debbagh is currently scouting locations across Morocco.
“We’re trying to cover four or five African countries, such as Libya, Egypt, Senegal and Mali and several countries in the Middle East, and we’ve almost found everything in Morocco,” said the veteran producer, who seemed overjoyed to restart scouting after having been forced to pause for eight months due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. “Casablanca itself is so diverse,” Debbagh said, “that you find areas that look like Senegal and others that are very luxurious like a California neighborhood, and if you’re looking for places that look similar to Libya, Yémen or Syria, you can find them in and around Marrakech.”
He said the sequel will benefit from the local tax rebate incentive, which was upped to 30% a year ago. The current scheme no longer caps the rebate to €1.8 million per film and instead has an annual cap of €10 million in rebates for all foreign shoots. “This new system means that it’s ‘first come, first served,’” said Debbagh. “Lords of War,” for instance, will spend about €7 million of eligible expenses in Morocco, and will get a rebate of roughly €2 million — which means there will be only €8 million left for all other international productions shooting in the country.
The crew of “Lords of War” will comprise 400 to 500 members, about 100 of which will come from the U.S. and U.K. mainly. “The crew members in Morocco have become so well trained in recent years thanks to all the big movies that have come here to film and also the great schools that have opened and helped bolster this younger generation,” he said.
Kasbah Films is also working on “Atomic,” an upcoming U.K. series whose first season will shoot entirely in Morocco starting in May. The show is being produced by Pulse Films, the well-established banner behind “Gangs of London.” Another project in the pipeline for Kasbah Films is “Faster Than Horses,” a British indie movie produced by Pure Grass Films.
Along with these international projects, Kasbah Films is also producing award-winning Moroccan films by some of the country’s most popular directors. The banner’s recent credits include “Life Suits Me Well,” directed by Al Hadi Ulad-Mohand. The heartwarming movie tells the story of a Moroccan family whose ties are tested when their father is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Kasbah Films also co-produced “The Damned Don’t Cry,” directed by Fyzal Boulifa. The movie world premiered at Venice last year.
Debbagh’s development roster includes “Wolfmother,” a thriller which will be directed by Ismael El Iraki, a Paris-based Moroccan director. Debbagh described the project, which was pitched at the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshops, as a “Moroccan ‘Scarface’ set in Tangier.” “Wolfmother” has already attracted several co-producers, including Bac Films, which will also distribute in France.
“There is a new wave of Moroccan cinema and directors who are ambitious and are trying new things, and we’ve seen in recent years that the presence of Moroccan movies at Cannes and other top festivals is stronger than ever before,” Debbagh said, citing Sofia Alaoui’s Sundance movie “Animalia” and Faouzi Bensaïdi’s “Deserts.” He said this trend has also been boosted by the fact that these Moroccan films tend to be better financed with the help of international co-producers, on top of local subsidies provided by the CCM (the national film board). One of the challenges going forward, he said, is to strike co-production agreements with more countries across Europe, for instance Nordic countries such as Norway, or Germany, where Debbagh studied film.
Source : Variety