May Odeh, whose first feature film as producer “200 Meters” debuted in the Venice Days Competition of the Venice Film Festival, received the Variety Middle East and North African Region Talent Award at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt in a ceremony presided over by festival director Intishal Al Timimi and festival co-founder and chief of operations Bushra Rozza.
Odeh is the first producer and first female recipient of the award, now in its fourth year. “To get the award from Variety is a huge accomplishment because no one really appreciates the job of the producer,” said Odeh. “So, this prize is also dedicated to all the producers in the Arab world, particularly in Palestine, because it’s a fight, it’s a miracle to make a film.”
The prize is recognition of the seven years of endeavors it took to bring “200 Meters” to the screen. “200 Meters” is the debut film from Ameen Nayfeh and recounts the story of Mustafa (played by the always-excellent Ali Suliman) as a construction worker living with his mother in Palestine, just inside the Israel West Bank wall, constructed by Israel in 1994.
On the Israeli side of the barrier lives Mustafa’s wife Salwa (Lana Zreik) and children. Mustafa refuses to obtain the permit which would allow him to live in Israel with his wife and children believing that it would legitimize the Green Line, so he prefers to use his work permit to cross. That is until his work permit expires, his son goes into hospital and he has to find a way to cross the wall.
After picking up the award in the new Festival Plaza, Odeh told Variety: “What I loved about ‘200 Meters’ is that you have Palestinians of all shades, not just as hero or victim, good and bad. You also see the good Jewish person, and it’s not a Hollywood ending. In a time with this fake peace all over, cinema is the weapon.”
Odeh was born in Birzeit, Palestine in 1981. She received her bachelor’s degree in Television and Radio Studies from Birzeit University and has a master’s degree in Film and Production from Norway’s Lillehammer University. She directed several documentaries, including “Gaza by Her” (2017), before moving into production and distribution through her company Odeh Films.
Forthcoming projects from Odeh films, which produces creative documentaries and auteur-driven fiction films, include a German-Palestinian co-production documentary with Kaske Film called “The Last Projectionist” by Alex Bakri, which is in post-production. “And we are developing another film with Ameen Nayfeh,” Odeh said. “It will be a film about football.”