SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain — Iraqi filmmaker Mohamed Al-Daradji’s “In the Sands of Babylon” swept all the kudos at San Sebastian’s Cinema in Motion showcase on Monday.
The win — which includes E15,000 ($21,430) in services at Paris’ Mac Tari mixing house and $14,429 for post-production from France’s Centre National de Cinematographie — comes just weeks before Al-Daradji’s second feature, the Roissy-sold “Son of Babylon,” world preems in competition at Abu Dhabi’s Middle East Film Festival.
Al-Daradji screened 55 minutes of “Sands” — which is a prequel to “Son” — at Cinema in Motion, a films-in-progress showcase for movies from the Arab world and Portuguese-speaking Africa.
From the opening shot — uncovering human bones in the desert — “Sands” provides a raw portrayal of the descent into hell of an Iraqi soldier captured on the Highway of Death while returning from Kuwait in 1991.
Cinema in Motion also showcased Cairo-born Iman Kamel’s “Nomad’s Home” and Palestinian Kamal Aljafari’s “Port of Memory.”
Shot in the militarized desert zone of Sinai on the border between Egypt and Israel, Kamel’s film portrays Bedouin woman Selema Gabali, who transgresses tribal taboos by studying, working and marrying an Egyptian man.
“Memory,” shot in an unaffected, color-drained, near-docu style, turns on three Palestinians — one man and two women — in Jaffa, Israel, facing eviction from their homes with attitudes varying among stupor, escapism and a desperate adherence to daily customs.