An ample assortment of new Arab cinema will be on display at the revived Cairo Film Connection, where new projects by established helmers, including Egypt’s Osama Fawzy (“I Love Cinema”), Iraq’s Koutaiba Al-Janabi (“Leaving Baghdad”), and Syria’s Soudade Kaadan (“The Day I Lost My Shadow”), will be vying for more than $100,000 in prizes with works from promising up and comers.
The 17 CFC projects in various stages from Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Palestine Algeria, Syria, and Morocco were selected out of 107 submissions. They comprise dramas, docs, and potentially groundbreaking genre films with gravitas such as black comedy “Inshallah a Boy,” by Jordanian first-timer Amjad Al Rasheed, about a widow who due to Islamic Sharia law finds herself in dire need of a male child to stop her in-laws from taking possession of her home.
Al Rasheed, who is a Berlinale Talents alumni, said in press notes that he grew up in a family consisting mostly of women where he listened to their stories “about separation, infidelity, mistreatment, sacrifice and even abuse,” which made him determined to use filmmaking “to highlight women’s struggles…and their coping strategies.”
Another project with fresh tropes being showcased at CFC is musical “When We’re Born,” which interweaves three tales of people doing things for those they love: Amin, who works as a male prostitute to “fulfill his wife’s dream of an apartment”; Farah, a devout Christian who struggles with her love for a Muslim man; and Ahmed, a talented musician contending with a beloved father who has other career plans for him. Developed by the Sundance Lab, this pic, now in post, is helmed by Tamer Ezzat, co-director of doc “Tahrir 2011: The Good, The Bad, and The Politician,” which went to Venice.
Osama Fawzy, the veteran whose controversial 2004 “I Love Cinema” was praised by Variety critic Dennis Harvey as a “pleasing, robust Egyptian “Amarcord,” is pitching supernatural pic “Rosy Black,” which revolves around the magical powers of an ancient book by Galileo; London-based Koutaiba Al-Janabi, who is a pluriprized filmmaker and photographer, will show footage of “The Woodman,” the third installment in his trilogy about migration/alienation in which a life-sized wooden dummy who appears to have a soul is haunted by evil powers.
France-born Soudade Kaadan, whose “The Day I Lost My Shadow,” set at the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2012, recently scooped Venice’s Lion of the Future for first features, will be pitching her followup, “Nezouh,” which similarly takes place in Damascus but after the conflict has escalated.
Also set in Damascus, is doc “Crystal House,” which Syria’s Zeina Al Qahwaji filmed in the war-torn city over seven years. It is now in post, as is doc “Lift Like a Girl,” about an Egyptian teenage woman determined to become a weightlifting champion, helmed by Egypt’s Mayye Zayed.
The CFC prizes are being supported by several major Middle East players, such as paybox OSN, which besides cash will be providing a prime-time slot; Ergo, the company owned by Egypt’s government, formerly known as Creative Media Ventures; New Century Productions; Front Row Distribution; Aroma Studios; Iraqi Cinema; and the Arab Cinema Center.
Front Row chief Gianluca Chakra praised Cairo fest president Mohammed Hefzy, who has reinstated the CFC, for his vision of “where the film business is heading” and his efforts in “educating a market and a region that is in dire need of modernity, quality and definitely fresh blood.”
Line-up of Film Projects for the Cairo Film Connection
Feature Narrative — Development
Inshallah A Boy | Director: Amjad AlRasheed | Jordan
East of Noon | Director: Hala El Koussy | Egypt
Once Upon a Time in Tripoli | Director: Abdullah El Ghaly | Libya
Missed You | Director: Tamer Ruggli |Egypt, Switzerland
Rosy Black | Director: Ossama Fawzy | Egypt
Severed Head | Director: Lotfi Achour | Tunisia
Longer Will Be the Night| Director: Latifa Said | Algeria
Nezou | Director: Soudade Kaadan | Syria
Spray | Director: Sherif Elbendary | Egypt
Before It’s Too Late | Director: Majdi Lakhdar | Tunisia
When We’re Born | Director: Tamer Ezzat | Egypt
The Woodman | Director: Koutaiba Al Janahi | Iraq
The Fountain Of Bakhchisarai | Director: Mohamed Taher | Egypt
We Are Inside | Director: Farah Kassem | Lebanon
Lift Like a Girl | Director: Mayye Zayed | Egypt
Crystal Ball | Director: Zeinah Al Qahwaji | Syria
My Mohamed Is Different | Director: Ines Marzouk | Egypt