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cinema marocain Aflamin
In Morocco, dozens of cinemas have closed over the years, plunging the film industry into crisis. But up-and-coming directors, writers and actors have contributed to a resurgence of cinema. So too have streaming services like Aflamin, a Moroccan streaming platform and winner of the 2023 AFD Digital Challenge, which aims to make cinema accessible to all.

With big wins at the Cannes film festival last month, Moroccan movie-makers are in the limelight. 

Director, screenwriter and producer Asmae El Moudir won the director's prize in the Un Certain Regard section for her film "Kadib Abyad" ("The Mother of All Lies"), and Kamal Lazraq won the Jury prize for his feature film "Les Meutes"("Hounds").

A year ago, at age 31, El Moudir won the Best Director award for her feature-length film "The Mother of All Lies" and her compatriot, actor Lubna Azabal, chaired the Short Film and Cinef jury. Director Nabil Ayouch, a leading figure in Moroccan cinema, premiered his movie "Everybody Loves Touda" (pictured in the photo above).

It all highlights the resurgence of Moroccan cinema, which over the years has been in a state freefall. For decades, cinema attendance has been plummeting, and cinemas have disappeared, falling from a height of some 250 cinemas across the country in the 1980s, to an estimated 21 in 2022. 

See also: Can Art be a Vehicle for Development? The Answer Lies in 3 Projects 

Streaming comes to the rescue

To boost the development of this industry and regain its position as leader in the Arab world, the Moroccan government has pledged to open 150 movie theaters in the kingdom’s twelve regions, with 50 cinemas recently being inaugurated. Other industry players are shifting to digital channels, like Nabil Ayouch, one of the founders of the new Moroccan streaming platform, Alfamin, which features independent Moroccan and international films. 

In 2023, Aflamin was among the ten winners of the AFD Digital Challenge, a competition that promotes innovative projects put forward by African start-ups. 

Launched two years ago, the purpose of this project is to drive growth in the Moroccan film industry by increasing its visibility. It aims to provide the general public with legal access to Moroccan movies, as previously, these films could only be viewed online through piracy.

“Today, Moroccan filmmakers are making some great films that are renowned throughout the world, but which are more widely circulated and distributed abroad than in Morocco. Aflamin is helping to change the game,” says Yasmina Tamer, director and co-founder of the platform. A specialist in film distribution, she returned to her native Casablanca to focus on this project after 22 years in France.

See also: "Cultural and Creative Industries Promote Employment and Social Cohesion"

"Our operations are based on a revenue-sharing model, which is very common in the independent film industry. We manage movies for producers or distributors, and pay them a share of our sales," adds Tamer. "With this business model, the entire chain works together and shares the risk, so that movie-lovers can access films through VOD. Our role is then to steadily build and expand the audience, and over time, generate increasingly higher revenues for film producers."

Teaching visual literacy through film

In addition to film distribution, Aflamin also supports film screenings in schools, as part of a program led by a number of Moroccan associations to teach visual literacy through film. “We will provide these associations with a catalog of films for a young audience that are ready to be screened, along with teaching aids so that teachers can lead discussions with their pupils.”

Through this new initiative, students learn the basics of cinema culture and develop critical thinking skills that can be applied to the images they see all around them, particularly on social media. “Digital technology also comes into play here, compensating for the lack of infrastructure, and making this type of education accessible not only in the few large cities that still have cinemas, but also in rural areas,” says Yasmina Tamer.

Streaming platforms are often blamed for declining cinema attendance worldwide, but they can also open up new opportunities for independent cinema in Morocco – and beyond.