The director is a long-time supporter of the Moroccan festival, attending it five times since its creation in 2021.
He is also a close friend of its director Mélita Toscan du Plantier, who has been a driving force behind the event ever since the sudden death in 2003 at the Berlin Film Festival of her husband Daniel du Plantier, who founded the festival.
No reason was given for the last minute cancellation but sources close to the festival said the director had remained at home in New York for personal reasons.
As well as participating in this year’s 20th edition celebrations, Scorsese had also agreed to take on the role of patron of the sixth edition of the Atlas Workshops.
The festival’s industry program, dedicated to emerging talent from the African continent and the Arab world, runs from November 27 to 30 in a picturesque riad just outside Marrakech.
In that role, he had been due to participate in mentoring sessions with the 25 project teams in attendance.
Scorsese’s presence was due to inaugurate a new initiative under which a major figure of world cinema is invited to mentor the Atlas Workshops and the participants then bear the name of that year’s patron.
As such, 2023’s Atlas Workshop filmmakers were to be known as the Class of Martin Scorsese.
News of the director’s cancellation comes just hours after a star-studded opening ceremony fronted by jury president Jessica Chastain and at which Mads Mikkelsen was presented with the festival’s Etoile d’Or career award by Willem Dafoe.
Deadline understands Scorsese had informed the festival of his non-attendance overnight, but the event wanted to break the news to the Atlas Workshop participants first ahead of a formal announcement.
The Marrakech Film Festival runs from November 24 to December 2.