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Doha Film Institute (DFI) Supports New Wave in Arab Cinema

Jan 26, 2011 — The Institute

Doha, 26 January, 2011 – Two films supported by the Doha Film Institute, Hawi and Grandma a Thousand Times, have been selected to screen at the 40th Edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), one of the oldest and most prominent festivals in Europe. The films will be showcased in the official Spectrum segment that highlights work by experienced filmmakers and artists who provide an essential contribution to international film culture. Hawi by Egyptian filmmaker Ibrahim el Batout will screen as part of Spectrum segment and Grandma, a Thousand Times by Lebanese director Mahmoud Kaabour is included in Spectrum Shorts section at the Festival.

The segment brings together highlights of the film year, new work by prominent auteurs and topical, strong and innovative films by accomplished filmmakers setting a high quality standard in substance and style. Some of the other films in the segment include Somewhere by Sofia Coppola, 127 Hours by Danny Boyle, Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky, Cirkus Columbia by Danis Tanovic, Film socialism by Jean-Luc Godard, Blue Valentine by Derek Cianfrance and Biutiful by Alejandro González Iñárritu amongst many other prolific names from world cinema.
Executive Director of DFI, Amanda Palmer said the international acceptance of regional films highlights the marked evolution of Arab cinema as an established entity. “This is a matter of great pride and achievement for the Doha Film Institute. In less than one year of establishment, two of our supported films have been selected to screen at such a prestigious event, in line with our vision to promote regional talent and connect Arab filmmakers to the global film community.” she said.

Hania Mroue, Doha Tribeca Film Festival Programmer said: “The Doha Film Institute has been established as a tangible platform for Arab filmmakers from around the world to accomplish their dream projects. One of DFI’s founding objectives is to encourage regional film-making talent, not only through creative support but financial and production assistance & know-how, and create a global audience for regional productions.”

Highlighting the support Hawi received from the Hubert Bals Fund at IFFR, Rotterdam Programmer Ludmilla Cvikova said: “We are proud to be able to showcase two films from the Middle East that offer a unique insight into the Arab world. The subject matter of both films reflects contemporary realities approached from an individual and collective perspective and we are sure our audiences will appreciate their story telling technique. We are very pleased with this excellent opportunity for European film professionals and viewers to become more familiar with the Arab filmmaking community and look forward to future collaborations with the Doha Film Institute to discover more gems from the Middle East and support the development of Arab cinema.”

Shot in Alexandria using non-professional actors and an unpaid crew, Ibrahim El Batout’s third feature Hawi continues the Egyptian filmmakers obsession in contemplating the details of daily Egyptian life. Inspired by the alternative cinema of Goddard, Vertov and Kiarostami, the story follows the journey of a prisoner released on a mission to retrieve a set of documents. In this portrait of modern Alexandria, themes of human loss and displacement take center stage and the narrative becomes an organic study of a city populated by disparate, often desperate characters, offering a closer view of so-called reality and the lives of everyday people.

Mahmoud Kaabour’s Grandma, a Thousand Times, a personal documentary about the filmmakers Beiruti grandmother, uses innovative and poetic cinematic techniques to represent different aspects of her life and feisty personality. With great intimacy, the film documents her larger than life character as she struggles to cope with the silence of her once buzzing house and imagines what awaits her beyond death.