May in the Summer opens Sundance

Cherien Dabis' second feature May in the Summer premieres in Utah

Events and Festivals, Jordan

May in the Summer opens Sundance

The Sundance film festival kicked off last week with Jordanian-American Cherien Dabis' sophomore feature film May in the Summer, which was filmed in Jordan and partially financed in Jordan and Qatar. The festival's founder himself Robert Redford introduced the opening night film of the US Dramatic Competition to an audience of 1,300 people. May in the Summer is a follow-up film to Dabis' critically acclaimed Amreeka which premiered at Sundance in 2009 and was also developed within the Sundance Labs.

May Brennan seemingly has it all. She's beautiful, intelligent, a successful author, and about to marry Ziad, an accomplished Columbia University professor. When May travels to her hometown of Amman, Jordan to plan her wedding, things don't exactly go as planned, as she has to deal with her dysfunctional family and the aftermath of her parent's divorce. Family, identity and self-discovery are at the epicentre of Dabis' new film May in the Summer, once again tackling such issues with precision, humor and poignancy.

May in the Summer is storytelling at its best. Dabis holds the film together with the committed protagonist, herself. Dabis has stepped in front of the camera in May in the Summer casting herself as May. The filmmaker told the audience that amidst casting she sent several auditions, including herself, to a neutral third party acting coach and he provided a compelling argument for why Dabis should take centre stage as May. One and half years of intensive rehearsals with her acting coach have paid off, as Dabis is a natural born actor on screen.

Alongside Dabis are industry vets Bill Pullman (Independence Day, Sleepless in Seattle), Hiam Abbas (Miral, Lemon Tree, Amreeka), Alia Shawkat (Maebe Funke of Arrested Development), Alexander Siddig (Cairo Time, Syriana, Kingdom of Heaven) and fresh faces Nadine Malouf and Ritu Singh Pande. The gorgeous cinematography does much justice to the small country of Jordan with scenes shot in the bustling Amman, Wadi Rum and scenes floating in the Dead Sea.

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