From June 20 to 24th, 2011, AFAC attended the Sunny Side of the Doc festival and film market in La Rochelle, France represented by AFAC’s director Oussama Rifahi and documentary programs consultant Emily Dische-Becker. AFAC was an official sponsor of the 22nd edition of this annual film market.
In recent years, Yves Jeanneau, Sunny Side CEO, has been steadily expanding the geographical reach of his festival by creating partner film festivals internationally, including Latin Side of the Doc and Asian Side of the Doc, which took place earlier in December 2010 and March 2011 respectively. However, the Middle Eastern and North African film industry remains underrepresented at the festival and Jeanneau proposed a partnership where AFAC would participate in the festival as a regional organization for the Arab region, garnering visibility for its activities, its grantee film projects and the Arab documentary scene in general.
The 2011 edition of Sunny Side of the Doc drew some 1,743 participants, as well as 455 companies, 290 buyers and commissioning editors from 63 countries. AFAC’s logo was prominently displayed on all the marketing materials, the festival catalogue, at the entrance to the festival hall and in the festival’s newsletters and press releases.
In advance of the festival, AFAC registered three of its Arab Documentary Film Program projects, which are currently in the production phase, as commissioned projects in the festival’s catalogue and video library. Attending broadcasters, co-producers and distributors could review the project trailers, production information and treatments. In addition, AFAC grantees prepared updated project presentations and reviewed the list of attending industry representatives, so that AFAC could help facilitate contact and provide information about their projects. Elias Moubarak is seeking a French co-producer for his project My Uncle, “The Terrorist;” Laila Hotait Salas is looking for distributors for The Crayons of Askalan; and Habib Attia is looking to finalize broadcasting deals with European networks and TV programs for Challatt of Tunis.
In May, ADFP grantees Habib Attia and Kaouther Ben Hania’s project Challatt of Tunis was selected to participate in the Best International Project Showcase (BIPS), a theme-based pitching session, and one of the main attractions of the festival. On June 24th, 2011, Challatt of Tunis was awarded best project in the Investigation category, winning a 2000 Euro prize. In addition, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) awarded 5,000 Euro to the project after the head of program acquisitions listened to their pitch.
On June 23rd, AFAC hosted and moderated a panel discussion under the title “Springtime for the Arab Docs” at a venue inside the festival market hall. Sunny Side invited two AFAC grantees-- Syrian cineaste Orwa Nyrabia and Tunisian producer Habia Attia-- to attend and participate, as well as Mohamed Belhaj, senior producer and commissioning editor at Al Jazeera Documentary channel, and Sara Lacomba of COPEAM (the Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators). The panel sought to address the challenges and opportunities facing the region’s documentary industry, in light of the current uprisings sweeping the Arab region and amid a growing outside interest in Arab narratives.