Egyptian, Jordanian documentary projects awarded in Ismailia

Film projects by one Syrian and two Palestinian filmmakers awarded support

Egypt, Syria , Palestine, Events and Festivals

Egyptian, Jordanian documentary projects awarded in Ismailia

A documentary project about Egyptian youth trying to revive an abandoned cinema, one about sexual harassment in Egypt, and a tale of friendship and sacrifice were awarded at the end of the Ismailia Film Festival's first co-production platform on Saturday.

A cash prize will thus allow Syrian director Nidal al Dibs to pay the crew who have been working pro bono so far on Cinema Wahbe, a documentary about Cairene youth trying to reopen their neighbourhood cinema after 30 years of closure following the January 2011 revolution. Al Dibs and his crew have shot up to 70 percent of the film so far, and are now looking for co-producers to finish the film, produced by Hassala, the independent production company recently launched by award-winning Egyptian director Hala Lotfi (Coming Forth by Day). The project has also received a production grant from the Doha Film Institute.

"The cinema, for me, is Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, cases that have been closed for 30 years and covered in dust," the Syrian filmmaker, who first heard about the film theatre through a friend, told Euromed Audiovisual. "Beautiful youth now want to clear away all this dust. This is the so-called Arab Spring."

After several days of pitching, another film set in Egypt also won a free sound mix from Studio Misr at the event: Palestinian filmmaker Samaher el Kady's I Saw Harassment (provisional title). The film is to focus on the thriving women's rights movement in Egypt, notably to denounce sexual harassment and sexual assaults, previously very taboo topics in Egypt's conservative society. Daily sexual harassment in Cairo's streets has nothing to do with what you wear or how old you are, says the filmmaker, who has been living in Egypt for 10 years. While Egypt's women are standing up for their rights, some even carrying kitchen knives to defend themselves, el Kady's weapon is her camera, and she goes out every day to film in the street.

"It's time to talk about this subject and end it," she says. "I want to leave the house to go to pick up my son from the nursery without feeling worried and afraid."

The Ismailia award will come in handy in about a year's time when el Kady has finished filming, according to the film's producer Karim el Hakim (Prophecy Films), who also co-directed 1/2 Revolution, a documentary about the unfinished Egyptian revolution nominated for Sundance 2012. He says that, in a way, I Saw Harassment is the sequel to 1/2 Revolution.

"The real movement that's happening is the societal change," he explains. "Women are waking up, and that came around through the [January 2011] revolution. They're starting to see what their situation is and starting to fight back."

As for the third prize at the Ismailia co-production forum, one for colour correction, it went to Jordan-based Palestinian filmmaker Sandra Madi for Static, her documentary project about friendship and sacrifice produced by Majd Hijjawi for Red Carbon Productions and Labiba Films. The film was previously awarded a grant from the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam's Bertha Film Fund.

Alice Hackman


Photo courtesy of I Saw Harassment

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