CH Edition Morocco: Cinémathèque de Tanger

From decades of filmic history to a dual-continent film festival linking the country to Spain

Now housing the Cinémathèque de Tanger, the city’s Art Deco Cinéma Rif has long carried the torch of North African and global cinema in Morocco. From the iconic building’s construction in 1938 to its current dual-continent Festival de Cine Africano (or the Festival Tarifa Tanger) and its extensive archives and preservation activities, decades of culture have been projected and protected within; it’s also Morocco’s only art house cinema, playing current films from all over the world. As we learned on our recent COOL HUNTING Morocco experience, it’s also a social hub where cinephiles can discuss cultural movements, art and visual language. Our trip passed through the city of Tanger for its momentous role in the history of Morocco and its current revitalization. The activities within Cinéma Rif today underscore this—its programming aims to bring the old to the new and highlight creators of the future—a perfect fit for our trip.

It’s worth delving further into the Festival de Cine Africano, which took place as we were on site. This is the only film festival to take place simultaneously on two separate continents. In fact, films premiere either at Cinéma Rif or in Tarifa, Spain—and then the talent travels by ferry to the other location for the next screening. This festival—and this ferry—connects Africa and Europe, Morocco and Spain, stretching across more than a week and including dozens of films. There isn’t another film festival like it.

Cinémathèque de Tanger’s head of programming (himself an artist) Sido Lansari curated a private short film screening and discussion for our CH Edition Morocco guests. Our festival featured two works, both by young female Morcocan directors. The first, a documentary called “My Instability” by Fatim’Zahra Bellalij, traced the relationship of a nomadic father and daughter. Bellalij had observed the duo and began to enquire about the way they moved around the world. It frequently begged the question: what is the best way for a child to be raised? The latter, “The Park” by Randa Maroufi, was an artistic, ethereal piece—at times verging on violent but always washing into safety. It was about listening in, or catching wisps of, or capturing the headlines of things. Together, they announced the presence of female Moroccan filmmakers today. Bellalij was on hand to discuss her work but Randa, who was out of the country, chose Nouha Ben Yebdri, the founder of Tanger’s Mahal Art Space, to speak about her piece.

Anyone can pop into the Cinéma Rif café and shop, which also offers terrace seating on a historic plaza. Whether it’s mint tea, beer or baked goods, the liquid is merely an accompaniment to conversation. We followed our film screenings with drinks and snacks in the cafe and talked about the continued importance of female filmmakers; the resounding takeaway was that film was a common language the world over.

Cinéma Rif is located on the Grand Socco at Place du 9 Avril 1947. You can find its calendar of events online.

Hero image by Leslie Parker, all other images by Josh Rubin