The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) announced today the first batch of film projects to receive grants from Crossroads, AFAC’s special fund for emerging directors from the Arab world working on films related to “possibility” and “change”. Six projects were selected in this first cycle, ranging from feature-length narratives and documentaries to shorts and experimental. Crossroads’ second cycle is currently open to film projects of all kinds in the development stage with a deadline for applying on April 12, 2012.
Launched in September 2011, Crossroads sprang from the period of transformation that is sweeping the Arab world since late 2010, creating decisive moments in contemporary Arab history. A new rhetoric is emerging, entrenched in the belief that the impossibility of the recent past has suddenly given way to the conceivable. The first reflection of such a transformation is evident in cinema, an artistic genre that is acknowledged to have the strongest link with reality and its impact. The program aims to support emerging directors with projects that are inspired by this period of transformation, and that deal with critical topics dear to filmmakers, who are discovering fertile grounds for innovation, creativity and experimentation, amidst the upheaval engulfing the region. Through Crossroads, AFAC aims to fund projects that go beyond the simple narrative of the moment, capturing the individual filmmaker’s reflection on hope, concerns, doubts and contradictions.
The first cycle of Crossroads (open between 12 September 2011 and 12 January 2012) received 56 applications from across the Arab world. A jury committee combining film experts from different backgrounds and nationalities evaluated the projects and selected the first batch to receive support from Crossroads. The jury will continue its work for the second cycle and will select a second batch of five to nine projects by June 2012.
Projects selected for Crossroads will receive, in addition to financial support, professional support from a group of experts who will act as consultants/advisors through the various stages of the project. In an atmosphere of creative discussion, grantees and advisors will deepen the artistic and contextual development of the projects via one-on-one discussion meetings, personalized consultancy and group workshops when required.
By the end of the two-day discussion, the jury issued the following statement: “The jury would like to praise the new initiative, Crossroads, for going beyond keeping up with the “Arab Spring” as a temporary event, but rather seeking to invite young Arab filmmakers to explore in depth related questions and possibilities far from simplified television coverage.”
The six selected projects come from four Arab countries- Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, and Morocco- and span a range of stories and genres, interconnected by an internal monologue trying to grasp the present by digging into the past. A personal quest is at the heart of each of these projects, reflecting on identity and alienation.
Commenting on the selected projects, the jury said: “In selecting the six winning projects, the jurors appreciate the efforts made by those directors to come up with new interpretations and new perspectives to recurrent themes while striving to unveil unrecognized ones - themes that touch on the individual and his environment, the right to reflect on and shape one's present and future, identity and belonging, without fear nor constraints.”
Mohamed Rashad’s The Little Eagles (Egypt) is a literal confrontation between two generations: the parents on one side, which were part of the left wing of the sixties and seventies and their children, who eventually made the revolution; Fadi Yeni Turk’s Monumentum (Lebanon) is an exploration of the fate of well-known monuments in the Arab world examining their changing relation to history and memory; Bahia Becheikh-El-Fegoun’s Algerians, State of Affairs, State of Mind… (Algeria) springs from a simple question:”Why did the revolution skip my country?”
In his debut feature-length narrative Upside Down (Lebanon), Ahmad Ghossein is concerned with the sectarian and political crossroads at which Lebanese diverge; Mohammad Shawky Hassan’s experimental project, And on a Different Note (Egypt), uses a compilation of images and sounds to trace shifting political rhetoric and media discourses in Egypt, as seen from the point of view of an Egyptian living in New York.
Behind the Wall (Morocco) is a short narrative where Karima Zoubeir explores the confined life of a teenage girl living in one of Morocco’s tin quarters.
The Selected Projects
Project Title: Upside Down
Director: Ahmad Ghossein (Lebanon)
Type: Feature-Length Narrative
Five people try to escape the bombing in a southern Lebanese village during the last days of the July War. They decide to hide in the basement of an undamaged house. Soon, seven Israeli soldiers enter the first floor. Trapped by their own fears, they experience an out-of-control situation during the next three days.
Project Title: The Little Eagles
Director: Mohamed Rashad (Egypt)
Between two generations, the left-wing activists of the sixties and seventies, and children of the nineties, many things remain to be said. The film revolves around a confrontation between the dreams, aspirations, political action, failure, frustration, alienation, and finally the revolution on both sides.
Project Title: Monumentum
Director: Fadi Yeni Turk (Lebanon)
What if the Monument, a landmark designed to reinforce a message of power through time, was deemed to oblivion, re-adaptation or even destruction? What if it becomes a nightmare that will haunt forever the mind of its creator?
Such are the changes currently unfolding in the Arab world and seen in a diversity of stories reflecting on the destiny of monuments, shifting between memory and dementia, between re-appropriation, rejection or even annihilation.
Project Title: Algerians, State of Affairs, State of Mind…
Director: Bahia BenCheikh-El-Fegoun (Algeria)
It all began with a question: Why did the revolution skip my country, Algeria? I look in the dictionary, around me, in the reality. I realize how much the meaning of Revolution has changed. Over the years, through the regimes, the politics and events, the terminology and its symbolism have taken on a negative connotation, a painful one. We are experiencing a sliding of meanings. Are we experiencing a sliding of revolution in Algeria?
Project Title: Behind the Wall
Director: Karima Zoubeir (Morocco)
Type: Short Narrative
Nadia, a 15 year-old girl, lives in the slums of Casablanca, surrounded by a wall that separates it from the rest of the city. One day, Nadia notices an unusual activity around the wall. Municipality workers deploy their tools and start painting the wall. Why is this sudden interest in the wall?
Project Title: And on a Different Note
Director: Mohamad Shawky Hassan (Egypt)
And on a Different Note is a reflection on the ambivalent relationship of an Egyptian living in New York City with the ongoing political developments in Egypt and the media rhetoric associated with them. This audiovisual experience is created through the juxtaposition of images of the author's various habitats within the city, and sound fragments from Egyptian prime time talk shows, echoing a growing sense of alienation and a state of physical detachment, and capturing the stillness of New York's urban life compared to the pace of events and their surrounding debates in Egypt.