The directors and producers of three film projects from the South Mediterranean will be going to Cannes this May. The films are still in the making, so it will not be in the competition this time round, but the event will hopefully help them to gain access to international funding and speed up their production.
Among the 15 international feature film projects to be presented at the film festival’s Atelier from May 16 to 27 are Odysseys, originally called Origines, by Malek Bensmaïl (Algeria), Blessed Benefits by Mahmoud al-Massad (Jordan), and 3,000 Nights by Mai Masri (Palestine).
“I was very happy when I heard that the project on which I have been working for two years had been selected,” Bensmaïl wrote to Euromed Audiovisual. “My project Odysseys (Périples) is an ambitious one that needs to bring together a certain amount of notable partners and co-producers. Cannes is the ideal festival to launch the film.”
Odysseys will bring together great Algerian and Japonese actors, according to the director, for an extraordinary journey between Japan, the Arab world, and Algeria, along a century of both tragic and human history. The project has already received support from the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (SANAD), the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Japan, and the French National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image (CNC).
“I am hoping that the Atelier will establish strong bonds with my co-producer ... to bring together funds from, I hope, Algeria, Japan, France, Europe, and countries from the Middle East,” he wrote. ‘The story is ideal for this.”
Jordanian filmmaker Mahmoud al-Massad will also attend with Blessed Benefits, a dark comedy about a construction worker who gets tangled up in an unfortunate business deal and unexpectedly finds freedom in prison. Al-Massad has received a Shasha grant from the Abu Dhabi Film Commission for the project. The Netherlands-based director previously won Best Cinematography at Sundance in 2008 for his documentary Recycle, and Best Documentary at the Dubai Film festival in 2010 for This Is My Picture When I Was Dead.
From Palestine, Mai Masri will attend Cannes for the fourth time, notably after a Mipdoc Trailblazer award last year, with 3,000 Nights, a film about a newlywed Palestinian schoolteacher who gives birth and brings up her child in an Israeli prison. Masri met her film’s producers Les Films d'Ici (France) and Dschoint Ventschr Produktion (Switzerland) at the Cannes film market almost two years ago, and the film has since been awarded support from AFAC, the Carthage Film Festival, the Aide à la Francophonie, and the Palestinian and Lebanese ministries of culture.
“I am so excited and proud that 3,000 Nights was selected by l'Atelier du Festival in Cannes. This is a significant recognition of the artistic and human scope of the film,” Masri wrote to Euromed Audiovisual. “I am hoping that we'll be able to meet co-producers, sale agents, distributors and key players in the industry in order to complete the funding of the film and plan for its distribution.”
“The international recognition this brings is especially meaningful for me as a Palestinian filmmaker,” she added. “I feel a deep sense of honour and responsibility to bring the human stories that have inspired me to the world.”
The Atelier has been run by the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfondation since 2005. In seven years so far, eight directors from the South Mediterranean have attended with their projects. Some have since completed their films, such as Danielle Arbid with Hotel Beirut (previously called Chambres d’Hotel), broadcast in France but still banned in Lebanon, and Faouzi Bensaidi with Death for Sale, recently screened at the Berlinale. Others have yet to finish them.
For a complete list of the film projects to feature at the 2012 Atelier, please click here.