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Young Mid-East Directors Pump New Energy Into Region’s Industry

Young Mid-East Directors Pump New Energy Into Region’s Industry
There is palpable new energy emanating from the Arab film world, largely due to a group of younger breakthrough directors finding their way to the fore, as attested by two Oscar-nominated titles this year, Jordanian Bedouin epic “Theeb” and Palestinian comic short “Ave Maria.”

This burst of creative forces is driven by daring producers tapping into new forms of financing and opportunities that are generating a wider range of pics amid a shift from a constraining Arab auteur mindset to genre movies and fresher, more audience-friendly fare.

Case in point is Naji Abu Nowar’s debut feature “Theeb,” the first Jordanian film to receive a nomination in Oscar’s foreign-language film category. Nowar, who studied screenwriting at the Sundance Institute Lab’s first Middle East program in Jordan, shot “Theeb” in Jordan’s stunning Wadi Rum valley. The film combines aspects of Bedouin tribal culture with riffs on Sergio Leone and John Ford Westerns.
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Egyptian Auteur Ahmad Abdalla Set To Direct Arab World’s First Zombie Comedy

Dubai – Prominent Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy’s recently launched Dubai-based Fortress Film Clinic shingle is set to make the Arab world’s first zombie comedy, “Zombie Gozombie,” to be directed by versatile auteur Ahmad Abdalla, known on the fest circuit for “Microphone,” about Egypt’s hip-hop scene, and also “Rags &Tatters,” and Sirkian melodrama “Decor (pictured).”

The plan is to start shooting next year on the pic, which will star popular Egyptian thesp Ahmed el-Fishawy (“Cairo 678”). El-Fishawy will also co-produce via his Crystal Dog shingle.

The script is by young Egyptian cartoonist comic and screenwriter Kafr al-Sheikh, known as Andeel, whose satirical work has gained prominence since Egypt’s 2011 revolution. He has a hot online radio show.

Ahmad Abdalla in my opinion never makes a movie just for the sake of being funny or entertaining. He’s always the kind of director who has his voice in the story,” said Hefzy.
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Diff: Fortress ramps up Egyptian zom-com

Dubai-based investment fund Fortress Film Clinic has boarded Zombie Gozombie, Egypt’s first zombie comedy, which is set to be directed by award-winning filmmaker Ahmad Abdalla.

Set against the backdrop of a provincial Egyptian town, the picture will revolve around a zombie breakout during a soccer match between the local squad and a top Egyptian team.

Up and coming Egyptian actor Ahmed El Feshawy is set to star as a local man who fights to keep the zombies in the stadium.

“There’s a political subtext but ultimately it’s a comedy,” said Fortress Film Clinic co-founder Mohamed Hefzy. “It will be Egypt’s first zombie comedy and marks quite a departure for Ahmad who has never done a genre movie before.”

Hefzy and Abdalla previously collaborated on Rags And Tatters and Microphone, set against Alexandria’s hip-hop scene just prior to the Arab Spring.

Film and TV investment fund Fortress Film Clinic – a joint venture between
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Egypt’s Film Clinic Recruits Daniel Ziskind as Euro Rep

Film Clinic, the Cairo-based production company behind some of the freshest, boundary-pushing, Arab movies made recently, has hired Paris-based producer and film industry expert Daniel Ziskind as its European representative.

Ziskind joins the expanding shingle headed by Mohamed Hefzy in an effort to step up its European co-production and international sales side.

Ziskind, who will also continue to represent multihyphenate Amr Waked, Egypt’s biggest international star, and also a producer (“Winter of Discontent”), has more than three decades of experience in the French biz, where he started out as an a.d. for venerable auteurs including Claude Lelouch and Alain Resnais. More recently Ziskind worked for five years with Egypt’s Good News Group, producer of Marwan Hamed’s groundbreaking epic “The Yacoubian Building,” which he sold to Jean Labadie’s Bac Films in 2006.

Ziskind’s first project with Film Clinic is timely Islamic fundamentalism-themed thriller “Clash,” which he
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Ziskind joins Egypt’s Film Clinic as Euro rep

Ziskind joins Egypt’s Film Clinic as Euro rep
Paris-based industry veteran, who also works with actor Amr Waked, deepens ties with Egypt.

Paris-based producer Daniel Ziskind has signed to act as the European representative of Egyptian Mohamed Hefzy’s Cairo-based production house Film Clinic.

Under the accord, Ziskind will support Film Clinic’s co-production and sales activities in Europe.

“I’m very happy to join the Film Clinic family,” Ziskind said. “The company has a great line-up and strategy.”

First feature

The first project under the collaboration will be Mohamed Diab’s drama Clash, his second film after the much-praised Cairo 678 tackling sexual harassment through the experiences of women on a bus.

Set against the backdrop of violent demonstrations that erupted at the end of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist reign in summer of 2013, Clash revolves around two groups of opposing protestors who find themselves trapped in the same police van as fighting rages around them.

“It’s a timely
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Gaul’s Pyramide Takes Sales On Egyptian Auteur Mohamed Diab’s ‘Clash’ About Islamic Extremism (Exclusive)

French sales company Pyramide International has taken world sales on Egyptian auteur Mohamed Diab’s timely Islamic fundamentalism-themed thriller “Clash,” now set to start shooting in Cairo in April with Franco-German network Arte also on board.

Diab, known internationally for bold sex harassment pic “Cairo 678,” will delve into Egypt’s religion-related political turbulence with “Clash,” which looks likely to take on broader global significance.

“Clash” is entirely inside an overcrowded police truck packed with both pro-and anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators gathered amid one of the massive protests that followed the events of July 3, 2013, as crowds celebrated the ouster of prexy Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member.

“It becomes more relevant today when co-existence of ideologically opposed forces is part of the reason for extremism all over the world,” said Egyptian writer-producer Mohamed Hefzy who is shepherding the film through his Film Clinic company. Film Clinic is known, among other titles, for Ahmad Abdalla’s 2010 “Microphone,
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Egypt’s Mohamed Hefzy And France’s Eric Lagesse Undeterred In Their Commitment To Produce Thriller ‘Clash’ About Islamist Extremists

In the wake of the early January terrorist attacks in Paris, Cairo-based producer Mohamed Hefzy and France’s Eric Lagesse, topper of Pyramide Films, have vowed to forge ahead with Egyptian director Mohamed Diab Islamic fundamentalism-themed thriller “Clash,” indicating they have no intention of retreating in the face of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter or to cave in to caution the killings could induce.

When Hefzy heard about the killings of twelve people in the French satirical magazine’s office by two terrorists shouting “Allahu akbar!” as they fired, one of the first things the prominent Egyptian indie writer-producer did was reach out to Lagesse.

The reaction he got was: “Now we really need to make this film faster, and it’s more relevant,” Hefzy recently recounted. And “it’s not for business reasons that he and others are saying this. They feel you need to shine some light on the truth,
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Court wins at Singapore film festival

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Court wins at Singapore film festival
Guests include John Woo, Zhang Ziyi, Juliette Binoche, Cheng Pei Pei, Tong Dawei, Chen Bolin and Nastassja Kinski.

At the 25th Singapore International Film Festival, Indian justice system drama Court won Best Film and Best Director for Chaitanya Tamhane at the Silver Screen Awards yesterday (Dec 13).

Earlier this year at the Venice Film Festival, the film also picked up Best Film in the Orrizonti section and the Lion of the Future - Luigi de Laurentiis award for a debut film.

The Silver Screen Awards jury, headed by Wang Xiaoshuai, stated: “This glittering gem dazzles with its simplicity, elegance and breathtaking naturalism. Every facet of this film shines, from the humanity of its screenplay, to the originality of its structure, to the assuredness of its direction. A brilliant achievement.”

The Silver Screen Awards this year has two categories - the Asian Feature Film Competition and the inaugural Southeast Asian Short Film Competition. (See below for
See full article at ScreenDaily »

Cairo festival helping to drive change in Egypt

Cairo festival helping to drive change in Egypt
Despite the cancellation of last year’s Cairo International Film Festival due to continued political unrest, this year’s festival, now in its 36th year, possesses an optimistic energy that change is happening within Egypt’s film industry.

Working under the newly appointed Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour, festival president Samir Farid (also in his first year) has added a staff of fresh new faces to help pull together a programme showcasing films from over 50 countries, including both animated and short films for the first time.

Also new, a cultural sidebar has been included that features an exhibition celebrating film icon Henry Barakat, a showcase of works from female artist Najat Makki, a film publications symposium and a musical concert comprised of scores by composer Rageh Daoud.

“Cinema, and culture, is a way of life for Egyptians, so how is it that our once beautiful cinemas have turned into shops, cafes have turned
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Cairo 2014 Review: Decor, A Modern Meta-Twist on the 'Woman's Picture'

Maha and her husband Sherif are talented set designers, who have been hired to work on their first commercial film (as oppose to the independent, art house films they usually prefer). On the first day of shooting, when Maha is setting the scene, she turns around to find that the set has a real place, the crew, including her husband, have disappeared, and she is living in an alternate reality with a different husband, Moustafa, a daughter (she and Sherif do not have children), and a job as an art teacher. She finds herself moving between the two realities, no longer able to decide which one to which she belongs.Director Ahmad Abdalla (Microphone, Rags and Tatters) and screenwriters Sherin Diab and Mohamed Diab have made...

[Read the whole post on twitchfilm.com...]
See full article at Screen Anarchy »

Film Review: ‘Decor’

Film Review: ‘Decor’
The classic “women’s picture,” demoted without due consideration in Hollywood filmmaking, gets a complex, vibrant reassessment in “Decor,” Egyptian director Ahmad Abdalla’s conceptually sophisticated fifth feature. Reflecting on a diverse swath of film history while painting a distinctly contemporary portrait of fractured female identity, this blithely self-reflexive melodrama centers on a put-upon production designer finding an alternative identity — or perhaps her original one — in the sudsy movie romance she’s reluctantly constructing. Though it pays extensive homage to the dramatic and stylistic conventions of vintage Egyptian cinema, “Decor” is far from esoteric: Shades of Sirk, Cassavetes, Bergman and even Woody Allen can all be detected on the film’s glistening monochrome surface. Slight overlength should not keep adventurous arthouse distribs from this sleek London festival premiere.

With its playful, literate screenplay by Sherin Diab and Mohamed Diab (the latter a writer-director celebrated for his 2010 festival hit “Cairo 678″), “Decor
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Singapore Film Festival unveils line-up

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Singapore Film Festival unveils line-up
Mda-backed Sgiff (Dec 4-14) is part of Singapore Media Festival.

The 25th Singapore International Film Festival (Sgiff) has announced its line-up with 147 films from 50 countries. After a hiatus of two years, the Sgiff will open as part of the Singapore Media Festival, which also comprises the Asia TV Forum & Market (Atf), ScreenSingapore (SS) and Asian Television Awards (Ata).

Hosted by the Media Development Authority (Mda), the Singapore Media Festival (and Sgiff) will run Dec 4-14.

Sgiff will open with Ken Kwek’s Singaporean thriller Unlucky Plaza, which premiered in Toronto last month. Making a feature directorial debut with the film, Kwek previously was screenwriter on films such as Glen Goei’s The Blue Mansion and Kelvin Tong’s It’s A Great, Great World.

The festival will close with Lucky Kuswandi’s Indonesian film In The Absence Of The Sun. A film the follows three women in the megacity of Jakara, it is Kuswandi
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Singapore fest unveils line-up

  • ScreenDaily
Singapore fest unveils line-up
Unlucky Plaza to open festival; 147 films from 50 countries.

The 25th Singapore International Film Festival (Sgiff) has announced its line-up with 147 films from 50 countries.

After a hiatus of two years, the Sgiff will open as part of the Singapore Media Festival, which also comprises the Asia TV Forum & Market (Atf), ScreenSingapore (SS) and Asian Television Awards (Ata).

Hosted by the Media Development Authority (Mda), the Singapore Media Festival (and Sgiff) will run Dec 4-14.

Sgiff will open with Ken Kwek’s Singaporean thriller Unlucky Plaza, which premiered in Toronto last month. Making a feature directorial debut with the film, Kwek previously was screenwriter on films such as Glen Goei’s The Blue Mansion and Kelvin Tong’s It’s A Great, Great World.

The fest will close with Lucky Kuswandi’s Indonesian film In The Absence Of The Sun. The film the follows three women in the megacity of Jakara, it is Kuswandi’s second feature after [link=tt
See full article at ScreenDaily »

Hefzy, Abdalla reteam on Black Tea adaptation

Hefzy, Abdalla reteam on Black Tea adaptation
Exclusive: Film Clinic’s Hefzy also co-producing Mohamed Khan’s new film Before the Summer Crowds.

Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy and director Ahmad Abdalla are reuniting for an adaptation of Lebanese writer Rabee Jaber’s 1995 novel Black Tea.

“Set mostly in Beirut, the story follows a young man during one night as he journeys through various incidents of his past as he prepares to reconnect with friends he had left behind,” said Hefzy.

He and Abdalla will launch the project at the Crossroads Co-production forum, taking place Nov 4-8 during the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

“It’s the first time we’ll present it,” said Hefzy, who is at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (Adff) this year as one of the creative producers on Emirati Ali Mostafa’s second feature From A to B.

Hefzy is initially seeking Lebanese and possibly French partners for the film.

Lebanese writer Jaber won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2012, also
See full article at ScreenDaily »

Revived Cairo Film Festival To Screen Previously Banned ‘Wall of Heroism’

The lineup and configuration of the revived Cairo Film Festival is starting to shape up with a mix international and Arab films, including the world premiere of “Wall of Heroism,” by Mohamed Rady, a war pic shot in 1998 but never released for political reasons.

“Heroism” is about the lead-up to and the events of the Arab-Israeli October War in 1973 and has reportedly been banned by the Egyptian military.

The 17 Arab pics unspooling in Cairo also comprise, among other titles, the Middle East premiere of Palestinian director Najwa Najjar’s life-under-occupation drama “Eyes of a Thief”; Emirati director Noujom Al-Ghanem’s “Red Blue Yellow”; Egyptian helmer Ahmad Abdalla’s big-budget psychodrama “Decor”; and Syrian documentary “Silvered Water, Syrian Self Portrait,” co-directed by Ossama Mohamad and Wiam Simav Bedirxa.

David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars”; Jean-Luc Godard’s “Goodbye to Language”; John Boorman’s “Queen and Country”; and Volker Schlondorff’s
See full article at Variety - Film News »

'Leviathan' takes top honors at the London Film Festival

  • Hitfix
'Leviathan' takes top honors at the London Film Festival
On Sunday evening, the 58th BFI London Film Festival announced this year’s Festival Awards winners. Top honors went to Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan,” Russia’s Best Foreign Language Film submission. At Cannes, the small town political drama picked up a Best Screenplay award and was considered a frontrunner for the Palme d’Or. After naming “Leviathan” with Lff’s Best Film award, Jeremy Thomas, BFI Fellow and President of the Official Competition jury said: ”We were all very engaged by the 12 films selected for Competition and really admired many of them, there were extraordinary stories and impressive images. But there was one film that we were unanimous in wanting to award Best Film, Leviathan directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Its grandeur and themes moved all of us in the same way.” Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, was also commended by the jury. This
See full article at Hitfix »

Leviathan wins top London Film Festival award

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Leviathan wins top London Film Festival award
Other winners include The Tribe, a documentary about Syria and Catch Me Daddy actress Sameena Jabeen Ahmed.

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan has been crowned Best Film at the 58th BFI London Film Festival (Oct 8-19).

It saw off competition from the likes of Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy, François Ozon’s The New Girlfriend and Julius Avery’s Son of a Gun, starring Ewan McGregor (click here for full list).

Leviathan tells the tragic tale of conflict between an individual and a corrupt system in a small Russian town.

It marks the fourth feature from Zvyagintsev and is Russia’s submission for the Best Foreign-Language Oscar. The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where many expected it to win the Palme d’Or, instead winning Best Screenplay.

It will be released in the UK by Curzon.

The award was announced at a glitzy ceremony held in London’s Banqueting Hall, Whitehall, and hosted
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BFI London Film Festival Announces Competition Jurors

BFI London Film Festival Announces Competition Jurors
The 58th BFI London Film Festival has announced the juries for this year’s festival, with BFI fellow and former chair Jeremy Thomas serving as official competition jury president. Producer Luc Roeg, writer, director and producer Sophie Fiennes and producer Finola Dwyer will preside over the First Feature, Documentary and Best British Newcomer juries respectively.

The BFI London Film Festival’s headline gala presents high-profile films in the lead-up to awards season, while the official competition section provides a platform for films to make their mark in the U.K. and internationally.

The annual awards ceremony will take place Oct. 18, with the best film award, the Southerland award and the Grierson award presented to winners of the official competition, the First Feature competition and the Documentary competition, respectively. The Best British Newcomer award will also be presented to the most accomplished new acting, writing, directing or producing talent, and the
See full article at Variety - Film News »

Jeremy Thomas, James McAvoy, Sally Hawkins & More on London Film Fest Jury

Jeremy Thomas, James McAvoy, Sally Hawkins & More on London Film Fest Jury
Thomas has produced and executive-produced films including Nicolas Roeg's "Bad Timing," Bernardo Bertolucci's epic "The Last Emperor," David Cronenberg's "Crash" and recently Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive." The jury will present the Best Film Award at an October 18 awards ceremony, among other prizes. Previous winners include Pawel Pawlikowski's "Ida," Lynne Ramsay's "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone." (Here's this year's lineup.) Also sitting on the Official Competition jury to select the Best Film winner are Ahmad Abdalla (director of "Rags and Tatters"), actress Sally Hawkins (Oscar-nommed this year for "Blue Jasmine"), film producer Lorna Tee, BAFTA winner James McAvoy (this year seen in "Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) and Variety Chief Film Critic Scott Foundas. The festival runs October 8-19 at venues across the UK capital. More info on the...
See full article at Thompson on Hollywood »

Jeremy Thomas to head London Film Festival jury

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Jeremy Thomas to head London Film Festival jury
Other jurors across London’s competitions include Sally Hawkins, James McAvoy, James Corden and Dexter Fletcher.

British producer Jeremy Thomas to to head the Official Competition jury at the 58th BFI London Film Festival (Oct 8-19).

Thomas’s career as producer and executive producer spans Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing (1978), Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-winner The Last Emperor (1987), David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996), Wim Wender’s Pina (2011) and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (2013).

He will preside over a jury that comprises last year’s Best Film Award nominee Ahmad Abdalla (Rags & Tatters), actress Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), film producer and programme advisor Lorna Tee (Postcards from the Zoo), actor James McAvoy (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and film critic Scott Foundas.

Jury members who will present work at the festival include Abdalla, whose film Decor receives its world premiere; Hawkins, who features in Morgan Matthews’ debut feature X + Y; and James McAvoy who stars in The Disappearance
See full article at ScreenDaily »
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