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Why Morocco is Africa’s little Hollywood

Story highlights

Morocco has been the backdrop to hundreds of Hollywood films

Films tackling sensitive political topics come here for Morocco's safety and openness

Directors like Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese and Hitchcock have all shot here

CNN  — 

In the new comedy “Army Of One”, Nicolas Cage plays an American civilian who tries to hunt down Osama Bin Laden after an encounter with God, played by Russell Brand.

The backdrop to the story is the slums of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. Here, Cage navigates the city’s narrow back streets through loud traffic and buzzing markets on the back of a donkey, as seen in the recently released trailer.

It’s the perfect South Asian scenery.

Except, the film was shot thousands of miles away, in Morocco’s Marrakesh and Ouarzazate (pronounced Wa-za-zat), a home from home for Hollywood directors looking to recreate a host of landscapes without any of the risks, costs and nightmarish logistics of filming in other, perhaps more suitable countries.

A safer alternative

Leonardo DiCaprio on set filming the spy thriller Body of Lies.

“Morocco offers a solution to the Hollywood studios who want to shoot films that are set in the Middle East, but in an environment which would seem to them much safer,” says William Higbee, a professor of Film Studies at the University of Exeter, who works with research on transnational Moroccan Cinema.

Over the past 20 years, Morocco has become a popular setting for films such as “Army of