The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) is proud to announce the 16 new documentary projects to receive grants from the Arab Documentary Film Program (ADFP), AFAC’s special fund for documentary filmmakers from the Arab World, in partnership with the Sundance Institute. For the second consecutive year, ADFP awards a total of $500,000 for feature-length documentary projects, in the stages of development, production, and post-production.
ADFP’s 2011 jury committee combined film experts from different backgrounds and nationalities: Director of the Documentary Film Program and Fund at Sundance Institute Cara Mertes, Producer Joslyn Barnes, Head of film funding at Doha film Institute Khalil Benkirane, and director-commissioning editor for Al-Arabiya TV Channel Mohammad Soueid.
The jury selected sixteen projects (3 in development and 13 in production/post-production) from Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.
Spanning a range of stories and artistic approaches, the projects delve into the controversial issues of questioning one’s identity, revisiting the past, digging into family relationships, and reflecting on the Arab Spring.
Please read the full press release and view the related poster, or scroll down for the names of the grantees and their projects’ briefs.
Note: The next open call for submissions for the Arab Documentary Film Program is February 2012.
Projects in Development
Project Title: Cairo-Ar-rehebat
Director: Abdullah al-Ghali
This documentary is a two dimensional journey into the unknown history and geography of Libya. The geographical plane follows the director on his journey back to Libya to document the testimonies of Libyan revolutionaries, from the Egyptian borders to Tobrouq, Darna, Al-Gobba, Benghazi, Ejdabya, Musrata, Tripoli and Ar-rehebat (his home town) in the western mountains. The historical plane covers the anti-regime struggle, meeting royal family members who had to leave after the Gaddafi's revolution, army officers who participated in Gaddafi's revolution 40 years ago, and others who fled the Libya-Chad war including the director's father who kept silent after his escape to Egypt and never shared his story with his new family. It is now and for the first time after 25 years of silence, that he reveals the story to his son. The film is also an inner journey where the director reconnects to his roots again and reconciles with a past he had neither understood nor accepted.
Project Title: Underground/On the Surface
Director: Salma Al-Tarzi
In light of current events, many questions arise about the Egyptian revolution; what propelled Egypt to suddenly awake from its 30 years slumber?
Underground/On the Surface explores an unseen revolution that had been stirring beneath the calm surface and which contributed to the shaping of the revolutionary spirit of the 25th of January movement. The film portrays three underground worlds: hiphop artists, the Ultras, and graffiti artists. The groups differ in their concepts, motives and dynamics, but share a common trait: they all work against the mainstream, whether in effect or by intention.
Project Title: Raise Your Head, You are a Proud Egyptian
Director: Hala Galal
Touching on the personal and the public, the familial and the societal, Raise your Head you are a Proud Egyptian will open the door to Egypt’s past by unveiling the dark side of Egypt’s history of oppression (from the Nasserite era through Mubarak’s reign). This documentary tackles the present by investigating the corruption of the public health system and questioning future challenges, in light of the urgent need to rebuild Cairo’s infrastructure.
Projects in Production/Post-production
Project Title: The Runner
Director: Saeed Taji Farouki
The Runner is the story of Salah Ameidan, a champion long-distance runner whose journey transformed him from an athlete to the symbol of a national liberation movement. A native of Western Sahara, Africa's last remaining colony, which has been under Moroccan occupation since 1975, Salah risked his career, his family and his life to run for a country that doesn’t exist. In 2003, he decided to take a stand. At the end of an 8km race in France, he pulled out a Sahrawi flag - illegal in Morocco and a symbol of the independence movement - and waved it across the finish line as he came in first place. Knowing he could never return home safely, he sought asylum in France and continues to train intensively, compete internationally and campaign for an independent Western Sahara. Salah has refused offers of citizenship from France and Spain, saying he will never take any nationality but that of a free Western Sahara. To this day he insists on representing the Western Sahara in competition.
Project Title: The Man Inside
Director: Karim Goury
the man Inside is a subjective experimental documentary portrait of an absent father, set inside a hotel room, somewhere on earth. A man enters the room. He leaves only indirect indications of his presence: the noise he makes when he’s walking, waking up, going to bed or taking a shower. He is reading letters from his father, an Egyptian citizen, exiled in Kuwait City, letters that often went unanswered. It was 1982. His father’s voice is speaking about his new life since he left Egypt –– totally absent, yet omnipresent.
Project Title: Ward w Rihan
Director: Parine Jaddo
Ward W Rihan is a documentary about an Iraqi woman’s search for traces of her mother. When PJ loses Najiba in the cold of exile, she returns to Iraq to look for a Turcoman song her mother sang with her brothers. Travelling from Lebanon to Iraq, the search that ensues propels PJ to re-constitute her own story and her understanding of her homeland and identity. In the absence of her mother who encapsulated her connection to a familiar country, she searches for what remains among the people who knew her, her mother's garden and most importantly, the music that she loved.
Project Title: My Love Awaits me by the Sea
Director: Mais Darwazeh
A woman embarks on a journey from Jordan back to Palestine to find her imaginary lover Hasan, a deceased poet and illustrator. Through his fantasy world she discovers the remnants of hope in characters living under occupation. This film is a personal account of displacement, taking the filmmaker on a near impossible first journey back to her country of origin. Along the way, she meets characters, searching for her Hasan in every one of them; characters that don't conform to the prevailing realities, instead creating their own personal comfort zones in order to survive under despairing conditions.
Project Title: ‘74
Director: Rania Rafei & Raed Rafei
’74 is a documentary that showcases a student rebellion in Beirut in the 1970s as seen through the eyes of present-day young leftist activists. Based on archival documents and extensive rehearsals with a group of seven activists, the film documents the thoughts and the spirit of young Lebanese militants through group re-enactments of the events of the 1974 AUB student revolt.
Project Title: As if we were Catching a Cobra
Director: Hala Al-Abdallah
In newspapers around the world, comic strips may cause laughter, tears, and provoke thoughts...they may even lead to a lawsuit or insite to murder. Caricature is the best thermometer to measure freedom of expression in any country, offering a singular opportunity for self-expression and the possibility to resist auto-censorship and defy state censors. Arab caricature encapsulates the history of the relationships between people and their occupiers, governments and tyrannies. Against the backdrop of the current revolutions and through the works of artists in Egypt and Syria, the film explores the evolution of freedom of expression in the Orient through caricature.
Project Title: Yasmina, or the Old Curse
Director: Nacer Khemir
Yasmina, or the Old Curse is a visual novel of an old woman and the ghost town she inhabited in southern Tunisia. Many years ago, the filmmaker promised Yasmina, a centenarian who lived in the village of Korba until her death in 2006, that he would help find her long lost nephew in exchange for filming her. Her nephew was born from a secret love affair between Yasmina’s older brother and the daughter of a French station master in 1926, and was shipped off to France before the untimely death of her brother, a symbol of "futuwa," of knighthood. Shot over the course of 20 years, Yasmina’s story will shed light on the feminine imagination throughout the twentieth century.
Project Title: Journey of Migration
Director: Hind Shoufani
Journey of Migration is a poetic multi-format documentary about the fall of the PLO as seen through the personal life of Elias Shoufani, the director’s father. Shoufani is a historian, an erstwhile farmer, an academic author of over 22 books, a former member of the Revolutionary Fatah Council, a widower, an Arabic/Hebrew specialist, an underground military trainer and a father to two girls. The film explores a unique Palestinian story through dramatic personal testimonies, exiled families and corrupt politicians, from the 1948 Nakba to Shoufani’s dejected resignation from Fatah in 1992, to the unexpected hope inspired by the Arab Spring.
Project Title: Home Sweet Home
Director: Nadine Naous
The director’s father spent 40 years of his life as the founder and director of “Rabia Lebanese School,” a secular school in Beirut’s southern suburbs, which was once a mixed area, but is now predominately Shiite and a stronghold of Hizbullah. Today, 69 years old and drowning in debt, he must sell the school and retire. Her mother is relieved to see the school up for sale. For the director, returning home after many years spent abroad, the school’s closure spells the death of an era in Lebanon, as she sets out to document this painful period in the lives of her family as well as in the life of the country.
Project Title: Off Frame
Director: Mohanad Yaqubi
Off Frame is a creative documentary focused on one of the main film groups of the Palestinian revolution, the Palestine Film Unit (PFU), which aimed to produce a new image of the Palestinian struggle. While the Lebanese civil war raged on, a group of filmmakers managed to smuggle 30,000 meters of negatives from Beirut to Rome in 1977. Off Frame follows this journey, each stopover offering an exploration through flashbacks of the practices of Palestinian revolutionary filmmakers and their relationships with the various underground networks creating militant cinema around the world.
Project Title: Uncle Nashaat
Director: Aseel Mansour
Nashaat was a Palestinian fighter who was killed by the Israelis in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in 1982. When Aseel, Nashaat’s nephew, makes a discovery that casts doubt on the circumstances of his uncle’s death, he embarks on a quest to uncover the truth. Not only does this quest lead him to uncover the disturbing truth behind his uncle’s death, but it also sheds light on his broken relationship with his father throughout his childhood.
Project Title: Whose Country?
Director: Mohammad Siam
In the middle of the Egyptian revolution in February, amidst chaos, random arrests and savage killings in the heart of Cairo, Ahmed Saleh – a devout Muslim, a family man and a police assistant, who was a dedicated servant to the Mubarak regime for over 14 years – has his world turned upside-down when his younger brother disappears. As a result of his brother's disappearance, and fueled with rage, Saleh begins to confess to the corruption and violence he and his colleagues routinely committed as police assistants. This temporary freedom to speak out, however, will expire once a new regime is in place.
Project Title: Deadly Business
Director: Zidani El-Khair
Deadly Business rather than deadly unemployment is the choice made by youth in Tkoot, Batna, a province at the edge of the Algerian desert, where rampant poverty and unemployment are ignored by the national government. Here stones are cut and polished by the hands of the poor to build beautiful and fancy houses for the rich. After only two years of cutting stones, the deadly disease of silicosis invades these young men’s lungs.