Magazine article Variety

European Biz Helps Fund Arab NEW WAVE

Magazine article Variety

European Biz Helps Fund Arab NEW WAVE

Article excerpt

The proliferation of Arab projects being developed with European producers and filmmakers at this year's Cannes market suggests that despite political turmoil, and the escalation of anti-Muslim sentiment in France after the January attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, strong ties between the cultures are being forged.

Underlining this broad artistic and financial accord is the Arab Cinema Center, the first Arab film industry umbrella group to attend Cannes, comprising some 17 film outfits and orgs from eight Arab and European countries.

"We need to do more work as Arab filmmakers," notes Egyptian helmer Marwan Hamed, who is bullish on the Arab Cinema Center being at Cannes. "We have to do more lobbying and marketing for what we are (creating)."

The Center, which will act as a focal point for the international film industry to engage with what is being touted as a New Arab Wave, is coming to Cannes thanks to marketing and theatrical distribution company Mad Solutions, based in Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

Mad, headed by film analyst Alaa Karkouti, is experimenting with socialmedia-based strategies - connecting potential ticket buyers to films via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, for example - to boost box office prospects among home audiences for Arab movies.

The group has had some encouraging results, most recently with Mohamed Khan's female-empowerment melodrama "Factory Girl," which was a hit across the Middle East, including Egypt. The film also scored a rare theatrical release in Sweden. Mad has been behind such successful releases as Jordanian first-timer Naji Abu Nowar's Bedouin Western "Theeb," and "Warda," touted as a "Blair Witch"-like Arab chiller.

The challenge in expanding the Arab film industry's international horizons is that "it's really rare to find a project that can interest audiences both in the Arab world and in Europe," says Mohamed Hefzy, topper of Egyptian shingle Film Clinic, which is participating in the Cinema Center.

At Cannes, there are many Arab projects suitable for global cross-pollination.

For instance, "Degrade," directed by Palestinian twins Arab and Tarzan Abunasser, is a comedy that focuses on a group of women stuck in a Gaza hair salon while mayhem breaks out across the street The pic, a joint effort between Arab and French producers, unspools in Critics' Week at Cannes.

"Degrade" made the rounds of the European co-production mart circuit, where it tapped into France's Breizh Film Fund, among others. Produced by Rashid Abdelhamid of the Jordan-based Made in Palestine Project in tandem with Marie Legrand and Rani Massalha of Paris-based Les Films du Tambour, the picture will be offered at Cannes by French sales company Elle Driver. …

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