Six Arab films supported by AFAC will have their first world premieres this fall at two of the most prestigious international film festivals in Venice and Toronto. Four are documentaries from AFAC’s Arab Documentary Film Program – ADFP -, a three-year-old initiative that has succeeded in making a huge impact on the Arab filmmaking scene. Two are narrative films from AFAC’s General Grant Program which has opened to cinema projects on a yearly basis since AFAC’s inception in 2007.
“We have always believed in the great wealth of Arab talent and artistic expression. We invest in it wholeheartedly and, though we are a relatively young fund, we have managed to become one of the most important sources of support for independent Arab artists and filmmakers,” said AFAC Executive Director Oussama Rifahi, “To see our grantees receiving the recognition they deserve in today’s most prestigious film festivals worldwide makes us very proud.”
The Toronto International Film Festival – TIFF - is a major event in the film industry and the most prominent film festival of North America. Every year, it features over 300 films, many of which end up winning Oscars. Over 250,000 guests and participants are expected to attend, marking the festival as an important film market as well. This year’s 37th Toronto International Film Festival , scheduled for Sept, 6th to 16th, will include 7 Arab films of which 4 are supported by AFAC: As If We Were Catching a Cobra, The Lebanese Rocket Society, Fidaï, and When I Saw You (LAMMA SHOFTAK).
"In spite of its youth, the AFAC film fund has harvested stellar results,” said TIFF International Programmer Rasha Salti, “and has managed to harness remarkable film talents across the Arab world, empowered by a riveting diversity of approaches, voices and visions. It relocates cinema as one of the most daring and compelling fields of expression in the region."
The Lebanese Rocket Society by Lebanese filmmaking duo Khalil Joreige and Joanna Hadjithomas uncovers a forgotten scientific adventure which took place in Lebanon between 1960 and 1966 - a group of professors, university students and military experts worked together on a space project to launch the first Lebanese space missile. Their previous short narratives and documentaries include Ashes (2003) Another Day (2005) and I Want to See (2008).
Fidaï is Algerian director Damien Ounouri’s debut feature, where a seventy-year-old veteran of the Algerian War of Independence speaks about his years of struggle as an underground soldier for the National Liberation Front.
As If We Were Catching a Cobra is the third film by Syrian director and producer Hala Alabdallah after I am the One Who Brings Flowers to her Grave (2006) and Hey, Don’t Forget the Cumin! (2008). The film focuses on the work of cartoonists in Egypt, Algeria, Syria and Palestine, examining how comic strips and caricatures are becoming a vehicle for dissent and a voice for freedom of expression in the Arab world.
The fourth AFAC funded film in Toronto is When I Saw You (LAMMA SHOFTAK,) Annemarie Jacir’s follow-up to her prize-winning debut Salt of This Sea (2008). Set in Jordan in 1967, an eleven-year old boy and his mother, displaced to a refugee camp after the occupation of their West Bank village, enact the emancipating dream that every refugee has imagined countless times.
The 69th Venice International Film Festival (August 29- September 8, 2012) marks one of the oldest and most venerable festivals for cinema. AFAC grantee Algerian filmmaker Djamila Sahraoui will be screening her feature narrative film Yema, her second narrative after Barakat (2006) and a series of other documentary films. Set in Algeria in the 1950’s, the film tells the story of a mother who loses her first son, a soldier, at the hands of her second son, a Muslim fundamentalist.
Out of Competition, and as part of the festival’s “Special Screenings”, a documentary film by Tunisian filmmaker Hind Boujemma and producer Dora Bouchoucha called It Was Better Tomorrow will also be screened. It follows the homeless “Aida”, a woman on the move her entire life and who does not wish to look backwards. She spends her time moving from one poor neighborhood to another. Driven by the will to find a roof over her head, she takes no notice of the historical events taking place around her. Her only goal is to find a way out and she is convinced that the revolution is a blessing. The film shows the atypical journey of this brazen and bold woman in the intense interval of a country's revolution.
To view images of the films, click here