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2 items from 2017

Human Rights Watch Ff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander — “Muhi - Generally…

8 June 2017 7:01 AM, PDT | Women and Hollywood | See recent Women and Hollywood news »

Human Rights Watch Ff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander — “Muhi - Generally Temporary”“Muhi -Generally Temporary”

“Muhi - Generally Temporary” is Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander’s first documentary film. She is an award-winning Israeli photographer. For the past 24 years she has worked as a photographer for the Jerusalem bureau of The New York Times. She has been photographing wars and peace, Israelis and Palestinians for over three decades. Her work has been featured in numerous international publications and worldwide exhibitions.

“Muhi - Generally Temporary” will premiere at the 2017 Human Rights Watch Film Festival on June 10. The film was co-directed by Tamir Elterman.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

Rch: The film tells of love, loss, and separation against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and follows Muhi — Muhammed — for four years. This spirited and brave child with smiling eyes from Gaza embodies this conflict’s rules, privileges, and injustices.

For the past seven years Muhi has been living in an Israeli hospital, the only home he has ever known. As an infant, he was rushed across the Gaza border into an Israeli hospital, accompanied only by his grandfather. To save Muhi’s life, doctors had to amputate his arms and legs and Muhi and his grandfather have been confined to the hospital grounds for years.

Muhi is unable to return to Gaza where the healthcare system is nearly shattered and he is raised by Jews and Arabs in paradoxical circumstances that transcend identity, religion, and the conflict that divides his world.

Closely watched over by his grandfather who sees it as his Islamic duty to stay by his grandson and an Israeli man who lost his soldier son to war, Muhi’s life is a tug-of war of pressures as his grandfather is torn between his loyalties to his sons in Gaza. While Muhi cheerfully plays in the hospital corridors, they have no long-term assurances they can stay in Israel for the care that keeps Muhi alive.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

Rch: I’ve been breathing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict day by day for over three decades as a photojournalist. Initially I thought I could turn my back for a while on the latest news and hostilities and retreat into Muhi’s world, where I found empathy and common ground for coexistence in this hospital which was like a cocoon. I was wrong, because months into filming, another Gaza war broke out, reminding us of the conflict’s inescapable presence in our daily lives.

I was drawn even closer to Muhi after meeting his mother on a very rare visit to her son. I learned about the impossible decision she had to make — separating herself from her baby for years to come — by sending him for a cure in Israel. She gave him life, twice.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

Rch: The audience just experienced four years in the lives of the most vulnerable of people caught by the complexities of a conflict, which is like an illness that has to be cured. I hope Muhi’s cheerfulness and his spirit — which is so much stronger than his surroundings — will stay in their memory because Muhi must be given a chance to grow to his full potential.

The film also directs the audience’s eyes to see what most Israelis and Palestinian do not or cannot see: recognizing their common humanity. Israelis and Palestinians still have to live together as their future fates are deeply intertwined.

Recently I observed the reactions of Israelis, Jews, and Arabs, attending screenings of our film at the Docaviv Festival in Tel Aviv and felt a great sense of hope. When people’s hearts begin to open to one another it has a huge power. It does away with prejudice, even if it’s just one person or one family at a time.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

Rch: I have been covering Gaza for years and since Hamas took control of the strip a decade ago, as an Israeli I’m barred from entering Gaza. It was extremely necessary that we get cross-border coverage for the film and that we were able to follow our protagonist into Gaza.

What seemed initially a mission impossible resulted in impressive filming by a Palestinian crew in Gaza.

One detail that escaped me for not being there was that while Muhi’s mother is in Gaza she is required to maintain the code of modesty and be veiled in the presence of male strangers. Since the film’s Gaza crew were men only, she had to remain veiled in her own home throughout the filming.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

Rch: We funded the film through film grants and pre-sales. The very first support came from an Israeli broadcaster, yesDocu, a cable documentary channel. Our producer Hilla Medalia brought Chicken & Egg Pictures, Bertha Foundation, Fork Films, Rabinovitch Fund, Pais Fund, and Jill Samuels’ Productions on board.

Since Israel and Germany have a co-production treaty, we collaborated with German producer Jürgen Kleinig, who secured two German film funds. We pitched the film at Idfa where we pre-sold the film to Norway and the Netherlands.

W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at the Human Rights Watch Ff?

Rch: Hrwff is a home for this film, which raises issues that are the foundations of basic human rights, such as access to healthcare, bureaucracy of war and freedom of movement, and children with disabilities and their right to fit in.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

Rch: The worst advice: That I could do the filming by myself.

The best advice: Filmmaking is a team effort and you need good partners to support you.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

Rch: In making a film, collaborate with those who have the ability and enthusiasm to share your vision, and choose them carefully. Do not hesitate to make a change at any given time.

Remember that being a woman is an advantage. We are always passionate about what we do and, because some might think we still have to prove ourselves, in reality we put our utmost efforts in every project.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

Rch: “Chocolat” by Claire Denis. It has so many beautiful images and African landscapes, and not a lot happens but so much is implied. The story takes place during French colonial rule and deals with the director’s childhood memories about racism and identity. There is defiance and anger but also tolerance.

I also love “Fill the Void” by Rama Burshtein. The director cracks the glass ceiling over Haredi — Orthodox — women by breaking away its protagonist from her role in that community, and with an unusual openness she tells this story of arranged marriage in Israel with such care and sensitivity

W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have on this topic.

Rch: My first film, as it turns out, is dominated by women. The producer is Hilla Medalia and its editor is Joelle Alexis. I’ve been supported by Chicken & Egg Pictures, which provides guidance for women non-fiction filmmakers.

Most of my professional life I have been a documentary photographer. Initially the fieldwork was dominated by male photographers. That has dramatically changed and in recent years there is sort of a parity, also in coverage of war and conflict. The same goes for journalism and during my many years at the Jerusalem bureau of The New York Times I have worked equally with female and male correspondents.

I believe women directors will break even, just like [they’ve done in journalism]. I’m sure it is a matter of time.

At the Docaviv Film Festival’s recent awards ceremony the top three awards went to female directors, including our film. The following day the headline in a local newspaper read “Three women directors took top prizes…”

Human Rights Watch Ff 2017 Women Directors: Meet Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander — “Muhi - Generally… was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »

- Laura Berger

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Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum selects 25 projects for 2017

18 January 2017 1:48 AM, PST | ScreenDaily | See recent ScreenDaily news »

This year’s event features an unprecedented increase in women directors and a new work-in-progress lab.

The Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (Mar 13-15), which has its 15th edition this year, has revealed its lineup of 25 projects.

Unprecedentedly, nearly half of the projects are from female directors, about a third are by first-time directors and two rarely seen genres at Haf are included - science fiction and gothic thriller.

As with previous editions, Hong Kong has a strong presence with five projects, including Derek Chiu’s No.1 Chung Ying Street, a drama about the 1967 riots in Hong Kong; Sobel Chan’s The Goddess, a tribute to classic 1930s Chinese films; new director Sunny Chan’s Man On The Dragon, a comedy-drama about five middle-aged men who take part in a dragon boat competition; new director Tom Chung-sing’s Impossible Split, about a bowling athlete who becomes a world champion despite a fatal disease, produced by She »

- (Silvia Wong)

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