‘Myrrh’ spices up San Sebastian

'Chou,' 'Camarades' attract interest

SAN SEBASTIAN — “Pomegranates and Myrrh,” “Chou Sar?” and “Le Temps des camarades” all won major plaudits at the Cinema in Motion showcase on Monday.

The San Sebastian Film Festival sidebar acts as a bazaar for Maghreb/MidEast films seeking completion finance.

“Pomegranates,” Najwa Najjar’s warm, well-crafted portrait of a Palestinian dancer attempting to establish a life for herself after her husband is slammed in a detention center, won the most cash prizes.

Major coin included a digital transfer worth $30,000 from Mikros Image, and mixing to the value of $22,000 from Mac’tari.

Prizes, which also featured subtitling from Titra and a 35mm copy from the Fribourg fest, looked in the cards after an enthusiastic reception at Cinema in Motion, whose attendees took in festheads such as Sundance’s Geoff Gilmore, sales agents — including Fortissimo Films, MK2 and Wide — and institutions such as France’s CNC and the Ile de France Film Commission.

“Somebody’s taken away, but life goes on. But how can you get on with it? That’s what I tried to ask in the movie,” Najjar said at San Sebastian.

Lovingly lensing Palestine olive groves, its family and community life, “Pomegranates” gains depth by portraying a woman who is confined not only by Israeli occupation but also her own conservative society. “Occupation can take many forms,” Najjar said.

“Chou Sar?” also proved popular. The documentary pulled down $30,000 in vid-to-film transfer from Swiss Effects and Kodak Suisse. Docu tracks cineaste De Gaulle Eid as he returns to North Lebanon’s Edbal, where his family was massacred in 1980.

Investigating the past, Eid draws a resonant portrait of a country still divided in the present.

Also notable was Mohammed Chrif Tribak’s “Les Temps des camarades,” which received a $30,000 grant from the CNC for post-production in France.

Set in the ‘90s in a university in Northern Morocco, “Camarades” draws on Tribak’s personal experience, he said at San Sebastian, portraying the country’s last politicized generation of students. Young marxists, the friends in the film face the murders of student union leaders by Islamist radicals, disaffection and society’s growing disinterest in politics.

Some of the film’s excitement comes from Tribak’s envelope-pushing: The subject has never been treated before in a fiction film, he said.

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