Marrakech Festival Ambassador Melita Toscan du Plantier on Pulling Together a Star-Studded Comeback Edition, Working With Martin Scorsese (EXCLUSIVE)

Melita Toscan du Plantier, the driving force behind the Marrakech Film Festival, is developing the next directorial outing of Fanny Ardant with Martin Scorsese attached to executive produce.

The movie will star Gerard Depardieu and revolve around an impossible relationship between siblings. Toscan du Plantier, who splits her time between production and the organization of the Marrakech Film Festival, is producing the film with Julien Madon whose banner Cheyenne Productions is owned by Federation.

The untitled project was penned by Ardant in collaboration with Jacques Fieschi, the co-screenwriter of “Lost Illusions” and “Mal de Pierres.” Toscan du Plantier said Scorsese will be creatively involved in the production, from the script – which was translated for him — to the editing.

The project is being developed by Toscan du Plantier and Julien Madon’s banner with whom Toscan du Plantier has a first look deal. The pair is already working with Scorsese on “Funny Birds,” Marco La Via and Hanna Ladoul’s comedy drama starring Catherine Deneuve and Andrea Riseborough.

“Martin Scorsese is a dear friend and we’re partnered up to work on movies from new filmmaking talents, new voices,” said Toscan du Plantier, looking glamorous in a silk emerald shirt and beige suit. “He knows that France has a unique positioning in the world of independent cinema thanks to its many international co-production treaties and varied sources of public subsidies, from the CNC [National Film Board] to TV channels like Canal+ and Arte.

“He just celebrated his 80th birthday but he still has a child’s soul with such passion for cinema. He could be resting on his laurels, but instead he wants to be involved in smaller films from promising new directors,” said the Paris-based producer, who has several other projects lined up with Madon.

Toscan du Plantier helped launch the festival in 2001 with her late husband, Daniel Toscan du Plantier, a well-respected and flamboyant French producer. After his death, she took over the festival and has turned it into one of the most prestigious and best curated festivals of the Arab world, attracting powerhouse talents and filmmakers such as Scorsese, who’s attended the fest seven times, as well as Francis Ford Coppola and Robert de Niro and Guillermo del Toro.

While most festivals struggle to lure stars or, in some cases, have to splash big bucks to get them, Toscan du Plantier was able to bring together a powerhouse jury presided over by Paolo Sorrentino, with Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Nadine Labaki and Laila Marrakchi, among others. It’s quite an exceptional feast considering the timing – the middle of the awards season — and the fact that Marrakech has only a fraction of the Red Sea festival’s budget – most of which comes from private sponsors — and isn’t paying guests to attend.

“It takes me months and months to assemble the jury and bring together all these filmmakers and actors — it’s like a puzzle,” said Toscan du Plantier. “We’re taking in consideration the number of men and women, as well as nationalities represented and then we have to convince them to dedicate 10 days of their busy lives to seeing three movies a day — It’s a big commitment” she added.

Bringing back the festival after two years canceled due to the pandemic was daunting but Toscan du Plantier said the key was to get Moroccan people excited. She and Remi Bonhomme toured film schools and universities for weeks before the festival started to tease movies from the selection. The festival also launched online accreditations. All in all, this 19th edition of Marrakech welcomed a record number of guests.

It’s also the first edition of Remi Bonhomme, who previously worked closely with Charles Tesson at Cannes’ Critics Week and spearheaded the Atlas Workshops, the industry sidebar running alongside the Marrakech Film Festival.

“Under Bonhomme’s helm, the festival is continuing its mission to highlight emerging talents from everywhere and we’re proud of keeping up this tradition,” said Toscan du Plantier, who noted that Alexander Payne’s’ “Sideways” and Alicia Vikander (for “Hotell”) won prizes at Marrakech before winning Oscars.

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