Four filmmakers from the South Mediterranean last weekend pitched their documentary projects at the Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Meet Market, via the Euromed Audiovisual financed Greenhouse programme. One of them was Mohamed Harb from Palestine.
Harb, a 2011 Greenhouse participant, attended with Death Tunnel, a documentary project about Palestinian youth risking their lives in the tunnels under the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to provide food and drink to families living under Israeli blockade.
Khaled, the film’s main character, starts working in the tunnels to pay back his wedding debt and soon becomes one of the only men his age able to provide for his wife and son. But an Israeli strike kills Khaled aged just 24. Following his death, his younger brother Wesam has to drop out of school to work in the tunnels instead of him.
Young men like Khaled are heroes to the people of Gaza as they provide them with food supplies, Harb told Euromed Audiovisual. But these tunnels also witness many other, sometimes beautiful, stories. Some students have to escape through them to study abroad, and one Palestinian young man had to travel through a tunnel to be reunited with his Egyptian bride. Even cows have been down there, because of the closed border.
“I'm not just telling a story, it’s one that I live every day in Gaza!” said the filmmaker, whose documentary is now in post-production.
Harb, who is also an artist, heard about the Greenhouse programme through a friend. Although Death Tunnel is not his first film, he says that it has allowed him to learn a lot about planning a film’s production and marketing a film project, notably through meeting producers and commissioning editors at the Greenhouse pitching forum and at Sheffield’s co-production market. This last event was a success for Harb, as he says that several film professionals showed interest in the documentary, and that he is meeting another commissioning editor before he returns to Gaza next week.
But Harb’s project wasn’t the only Greenhouse-backed Palestinian success at the festival, as 5 Broken Cameras by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, a completed 2009 Greenhouse project, won the Doc/Fest’s Audience Award this year. Doc/Fest film programmer Hussain Currimbhoy said it was “a very well deserved win”, according to Indie Wire.
It’s the film’s eighth award, notably after two in Amsterdam and one at Sundance earlier this year. 5 Broken Cameras was released in the United States earlier this month, recommended by a great review in the New York Times, and has been sold to broadcasters worldwide including in Japan, Canada, Sweden, Iceland, Turkey, Estonia and Norway.
Harb saw the film and said that he was very moved, despite also being Palestinian.
Since 2005, each year Greenhouse has invited 10 to 15 film school graduates and emerging filmmakers from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, and Tunisia to seminars with international experts to develop international production packages and receive feedback from an international pitching forum.
Of approximately 80 film concepts subjected to the Greenhouse process, 16 have been completed and others are in varying stages of production.
This year, 17 filmmakers are taking part in the programme. They include one from Palestine, three from Israel, three from Egypt, three from Morocco, two from Algeria, two from Tunisia, two from Lebanon, and one from Jordan.
Applications for the 2013 programme are expected to be called in November 2012.