Why Morocco went Hollywood

In the deep south of a country where few locals drink, fewer speak English, and the metric system reigns supreme, you'll find a derelict gas station whose sign promises, "Cold beer. Last stop 200 miles."

It's one of several structures near this garrison town that may disrupt a visitor's expectations. Just to the north, a European-style medieval castle rises from the rocky plain. Closer to town, a pair of grimacing, gold-painted lions guard a Tibetan temple that's been slightly damaged by fire.

The buildings are all sets from American films – "The Hills Have Eyes 2," "Kingdom of Heaven," and "Kundun," respectively – and they represent traces of a multimillion-dollar industry that has bloomed in the Moroccan desert. Without realizing it, filmgoers worldwide have seen a remarkable number of this country's landscapes onscreen. The locations are sometimes unadorned, sometimes computer-enhanced, but they're nearly always standing in for somewhere else.

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Filmmaking, Hollywood, International Cinema


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