Magazine article Variety

Showcase for Arab Film

Magazine article Variety

Showcase for Arab Film

Article excerpt

Sanad Fund-backed pics will unspool in fest's official selection

Clear signals that the Middle East fostering a truly international film industry pervade all sections of the 6th Abu Dhabi Film Festival, starting with its opener, Wall Street thriller "Arbitrage," backed by Hollywood-based Saudi producer Mohammed Al Turki.

As further indication that the region is raising its cinematic profile, Ali Al Jabri, the event's new artistic director, proudly points out that nine titles in the official selection tapped into coin from the fest's Sanad Fund for development and post-production.

Among these are two that take their cue from the Arab Spring, Egyptian auteur Yousry Nasrallah's "After the Battle," which recently bowed in competition at Cannes, and Tunisian helmer Nouri Bouzid's "Hidden Beauties," a female empowerment drama set during the revolution, which will world preem at Abu Dhabi.

Both will unspool in the fest's narrative feature competition alongside recent works from Michael Winterbottom, Susanne Bier and Sally Potter, among others.

"One of the aims of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival is to help boost emerging and established Arab filmmakers through their exposure to international cinema and interaction with filmmakers from all over the world. It's very important to us not to create a ghetto for Arab cinema," says Al Jabri, who replaced Peter Scarlet as fest topper in July after working closely with Scarlet for three years.

Saleh Karama took over Jabri's former post of director of the Emirates film contest.

Like all fest chiefs, Al Jabri is keen on securing world preems, but he's also happy to note that Toronto, where the Middle East loomed large this year, had four entries that Sanad backed.

These included Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir's "When I Saw You," a refugee-camp drama set in the wake of the 1967 SixDay War, which will screen in Abu Dhabi's New Horizons; and Paris-based Syrian director Hala Alabdalla's "As if We Were Catching a Cobra" comprising Skype chats, emails and video diaries about the passionate struggle of Arab artists for freedom from creative, and even physical, oppression, which will screen in the documentary competition.

Another Sanad-financed docu that played in Toronto before coming to Abu Dhabi is "A World Not Ours," an ironic, almost nostalgic, look at life in a Palestinian refugee camp, helmed by Dubaiborn Mahdi Fleifel who grew up mostly in Denmark.

"What we are seeing is a new generation of filmmakers," says Al Jabri. …

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