Arab Cinema on rise at International Film Festivals
Four Arab films supported by SANAD, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival’s (ADFF) development and post-production fund, will be screened at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival, which runs from September 4-14, 2014.
This is the fifth consecutive year SANAD films have been screened at TIFF, this year’s selections include two narrative films. Theeb, directed by Naji Abu Nowar and The Valley directed by Ghassan Salhab. The two documentaries are in the TIFF Docs category of the progamme which includes Iraqi Odyssey, directed by Samir and The Wanted 18, directed by Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan.
Ali Al Jabri, Director of Abu Dhabi Film Festival said: “This achievement is a testament to ADFF and SANAD’s success in supporting and developing international quality Arab films. It also demonstrates ADFF’s continued support for filmmakers in the region.
“SANAD serves as a vehicle for identifying and supporting worthwhile projects and we are confident that such films will go on to create a meaningful body of work that ensures greater Arab artistic representation in contemporary world cinema. Theeb has also been selected for Orizzonti competition of Venice Film Festival later this month; it is the only Arab feature film to be screened in the official selection of this year’s programme in Venice.”
Theeb, selected to be part of the Discovery Category of TIFF, follows the story of a young Bedouin boy named Theeb who lives with his Bedouin tribe in a forgotten corner of the Ottoman Empire. Having recently lost his father, it falls to Theeb’s brother, Hussein, to raise him. Hussein tries to teach Theeb the Bedouin way of life, but the young boy is more interested in mischief than mentorship. Their lives are interrupted with the arrival of a British Army Officer and his Guide on a mysterious mission.
Lebanese director Ghassan Salhab returns to TIFF, following the screening of his film, The Mountain in 2011, with The Valley, participating in the Contemporary World of Cinema CategoryThe story revolves around a man who loses his memory following a car accident in the Beqaa Valley. While stranded, he is held hostage on a local farm that doubles as an illegal drug-production facility. The film features prominent actors who have worked with Salhab in his previous films such as Carlos Chahine, Fadi Abi Samra, Carole Abboud, Aouni Kawas in addition to the two young actors Mounzer Baalbaki and Rodrigue Sleiman.
Additionally, TIFF’s Documentaries Category will showcase Iraqi Odyssey by Swiss-Iraqi director Samir, who entered the spotlight following the release of his film ‘Forget Baghdad in 2002 after a long production and direction process that took place in Switzerland where Samir grew up and still resides.
Iraqi Odyssey is a 3D adventure, telling the story of the director’s immigrant family that travelled for half a century recalling dreams that were crushed by the horrors of dictatorship and drawing a ‘portrait’ of the Iraqi middle class of the fifties and sixties.
In the same category, Palestinian director Amer Al Shomali and Canadian director Paul Cowan showcase their documentary film The Wanted 18. The film sarcastically recreates an astonishing true story from the First Palestinian Intifada: the Israeli army’s pursuit of eighteen cows, whose independent milk production on a Palestinian collective farm was declared a threat to the national security of the state of Israel.
SANAD supported films have continually been featured at international film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and Venice, and have received international recognition by winning numerous awards and accolades. SANAD provides not only funding but support to projects starting at the development stage and continues its support until these films reach the big screens; as is the case with the three films: Theeb, Iraqi Odyssey and The Wanted 18, which were all awarded development and post production grants from SANAD. Likewise, films screened at the festival over the past four years include ‘Death for Sale’ by Faouzi Bensaïdi, and ‘In My Mother’s Arms’ by Atia and Mohamed Jabarah Al-Daradji and “When I Saw You” by Annmarie Jacir.
TIFF opens on September 4 and screens more than 300 films over 10 days. One of the world’s most prestigious festivals, the event is considered a proving ground for the latest films, and is seen as the gateway to the US and Canadian markets for many independent filmmakers from outside North America.
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