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Venice: Final Cut Program Boosts African Filmmaking

An offbeat love story set against the backdrop of war in Sudan and a documentary about a group of women who dream of playing soccer for the Libyan national team are among this year’s selections for Final Cut in Venice, the Venice Production Bridge workshop providing post-production support to films from Africa and the Arab world.

Taking place from Sept. 3-5, the program recognizes the difficulties facing filmmakers in some of the world’s most challenging regions, while also filling a funding gap not addressed by European film funds.

“When you arrive at the stage of post-production, it’s a very delicate stage,” says Final Cut head Alessandra Speciale, who received roughly 60 submissions for the program’s fifth edition.

Along with financial assistance from Final Cut, producers and directors are able to present their projects to a range of foreign buyers, distributors, producers and festival programmers. The idea is to facilitate the post process, promote possible co-production opportunities, and access the international distribution market.

Established in 2013 to provide completion funds for selected films from Africa, the program expanded in 2014 to include projects from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.

Recent alumni include “The Wound,” by John Trengove, which opened the Panorama section of this year’s Berlinale; “Ghost Hunting,” by Raed Andoni, which won the documentary and the Panorama Dokumente Audience Award in Berlin; and “Félicité,” which won the festival’s

Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize, by Alain Gomis.

This year’s Final Cut participants are “A Kasha” (Sudan, South Africa, Qatar), an offbeat love story set during the ongoing war in Sudan, by Hajooj Kuka; “Freedom Fields” (Libya, U.K.), a documentary about Libyan women’s dreams to play soccer for their country, by Naziha Arebi; “Our Madness” (Mozambique, France, Portugal, Qatar), director João Viana’s portrait of a woman stuck in a psychiatric hospital while dreaming of the family she left behind; “Dream Away” (Egypt, Germany, Qatar), by Marouan Omara and Johanna Domke, about a group of young Egyptians pulled between tradition and a liberal lifestyle in the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh; “The Harvesters/Die Stropers” (South Africa, France, Greece, Poland), by Etienne Kallos, about a teenager whose life is upended when his parents bring home a mysterious orphan; and “Joint Possession/Indivision” (Morocco, France, Qatar, UAE), by Leila Kilani, about a family pushed to sell their Tangiers estate by greedy real estate developers.

“The panorama of cinema from Africa [and the Middle East] is changing,” says Speciale. She adds that it’s “important to have this kind of window opened exclusively to African and Arab films in Venice.”

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