Tilda Swinton, Naomi Watts open the Marrakech Film Festival

Updated 30 November 2019

Tilda Swinton, Naomi Watts open the Marrakech Film Festival

  • The Marrakech Film Festival kicked off Friday with a moving speech by jury president Tilda Swinton
  • After her speech, the festival was officially declared open by Australian actress Naomi Watts

DUBAI: The Marrakech Film Festival kicked off Friday with a moving speech by jury president Tilda Swinton.

The festival, which launched in 2001, opened with a selection of clips broadcast on the big screen — including snippets of the 14 films screening in the Official Competition sections.

Before Swinton took to the stage, clips were shown from her films, including “Orlando,” “Snowpiercer,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

 “The Marrakech Film Festival is a legend,” she said. “It’s a beacon for cineastes around the world who come from all stretches of our planet to meet under the African sky, which gives its blessing on all us. It’s a privilege to be here.”

Swinton said that having grown up in a “cinema-less part of Scotland” her first visit to a film festival, 1985’s Berlin Film Festival, was a life-changing experience.

 “This empathy machine invites us to walk in the shoes and the lives of other people and is good for us all. Its all-embracing nature holds up the best of our dreams and dispels our fears, so that we can share our wildest imaginations in the healthiest way possible. Cinema is our chance to suspend time and space and everything that divides us. It immerses us and transports us. To unbuckle, listen and celebrate our differences and also our similarities.”

She also praised her fellow jury members — David Michôd, Andrea Arnold, Chiara Mastroianni, Rebecca Zlotowski, Mikael Persbrandt, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Atiq Rahimi and Ali Essafi.

After her speech, the festival was officially declared open by Australian actress Naomi Watts, who underscored the “exceptional gathering of my fellow actors, directors and friends and delighted festival goers. This year offers us the opportunity to discover the extraordinary breadth and diversity of Australian cinema.”

The ceremony was followed by the screening of Rian Johnson’s murder mystery “Knives Out.”

The festival runs until Dec. 7.


Film Review: ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ plays on novelty

The jungle gets more challenging and the game scarier in ‘Jumanji: The Next Level.’ (Supplied)
Updated 15 December 2019

Film Review: ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ plays on novelty

CHENNAI: The remake of the 1996 film “Jumanji” landed in 2017, with an alluring title “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” could be described as sequel of sorts after 22 years. It was a high-octave adventure set in a virtual world, with four teens getting into it through a video game in a drawing room. Each sank into a character from the game, proving a super hit with children and adults, letting their imaginations run riot and indulging in the fantasies they had always desired.

“Jumanji: The Next Level” makes it a trilogy. The jungle gets more challenging and the game scarier. For director Jake Kasdan and co-writers Jeff Pinker and Scott Rosenberg, these alone may not have been enough to avoid franchise boredom. So they add more to their latest plot by giving new avatars to some of the characters, and adding two new ones, played by the brilliant Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, who portray estranged business partners, Eddie and Milo.

The starting point is a breakup between asthmatic Spencer (Alex Wolff) and the sweet Martha (Morgan Turner). While their friends, football player Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and forever online Bethany (Madison Iseman) are living it up, Spencer is depressed, and in a moment of weakness, decides to play the game, plunging into Jumanji. When his friends find out, they realize he cannot get out by himself and follow him, leaving Bethany behind, and taking Eddie and Milo.

A good part of the film’s freshness comes with the twist it throws up: Some of the virtual characters from the 2017 adventure take on different avatars. Spencer wanted to become the strong and suave Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) from the previous adventure, but is transformed into pickpocket/cat-burglar Awkwafina. And Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie, gets to be Smolder, with Johnson impersonating DeVito to much hilarity.

The film can be confusing, and the storytelling is somewhat sloppy, but the acting is good and the charisma shines through. The special effects are top-notch, turning the 3D imagery into a thrilling canvas. An undulating desert and African medinas add a touch of the exotica to this virtual wonder.