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Final Cut throws spotlight on African, Arab filmmakers

Syrian director to show human face of war in Venice film

LOS ANGELES, Sept 1, (Agencies): Moroccan villagers doing battle with a rapacious mining company, armed only with poems and songs. Four aging Sudanese filmmakers looking to inspire a love of cinema in their countrymen. A celebrated South African poet living out his final days on a mental journey into his own past after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Their stories of courage, determination and hope are among this year’s selections for Final Cut in Venice, the Venice Production Bridge workshop providing post-production support and networking opportunities to films from Africa and the Arab world.

Taking place from Sept 1-3, the program awards prizes and financial assistance to six selected projects, while offering an opportunity for producers and directors to pitch their films to foreign buyers, distributors, producers and festival programmers in order to facilitate the post-production process, promote possible co-production opportunities and access the international distribution market.

Established in 2013 to provide completion funds for selected films from Africa, Final Cut expanded in 2014 to include projects from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. This year, organizers are also adding a day of one-on-one meetings with participants of the Venice Production Bridge’s Gap-Financing Market – an exciting opportunity for African and Arab filmmakers to bring their projects to the global market.

“Filmmakers know that to be part of this kind of industry workshop…means to launch the film on an international platform. The film immediately gets more visibility,” said Final Cut head Alessandra Speciale. “It makes it easier for the filmmaker to find a distributor, or to be selected by a big festival.”

Recent Final Cut alumni include Etienne Kallos’ “Die Stropers” (“The Harvesters”), which won critical acclaim after its Cannes’ Un Certain Regard premiere this year; “The Wound”, by John Trengove, which opened the Panorama section of the Berlinale in 2017; and “Felicite”, by Alain Gomis, which won the festival’s Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize that year.

Another notable triumph this year is “aKasha” (“The Roundup”), the feature debut of Sudanese helmer Hajooj Kuka, which will world premiere in Venice Critics’ Week, a year after winning Final Cut’s first Biennale Prize for best film in post-production.


“After six years, we have a film in Venice. This is a big achievement for Final Cut,” said Speciale. “It’s a big confirmation that we are working very well, and we are launching films” from new directors.

The full line-up of participants this year includes “Amussu” (“Movement”) (Morocco), Nadir Bouhmouch’s documentary about villagers who decide to fight back against the mining company whose ecological impact is destroying their community; “Banc d’Attente” (“The Waiting Bench”) (France-Chad-Germany), Suhaib Gasmelbari’s portrait of four elderly filmmakers and lifelong friends who travel across Sudan with a mobile cinema, bringing their love of film to their countrymen; “Bi ‘Elem El Wossoul” (“Certified Mail”) (Egypt), the story of a suicidal young mother who’s forced to confront her depression on her own when her husband is imprisoned, by Hisham Saqr; “Mother, I am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You” (Lesotho-Germany), an experimental docufiction by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese; “Haifa Street” (Iraq-Qatar), Mohanad Hayal’s feature about a sniper who kills a man on a street in Baghdad, and refuses to let anyone claim his body; and “Untamed” (South Africa-Zambia), a documentary exploration of the dying days of a celebrated South African poet, by Simon Wood.

Speciale noted that 90 projects were submitted this year – a 50% increase from 2017 – with a growing number coming from countries with little filmmaking infrastructure, such as Lesotho, Libya, and Sudan. “ is a very important observatory for what is going on [in Africa and the Middle East], and gives us the opportunity to get in touch with a new generation of filmmakers,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”


BEIRUT: The director of the first Syrian film to screen in competition at the Venice Film Festival has said she wanted to show the human face of her home country, calling out the media for presenting “stereotypes” of war.

Soudade Kaadan worked for seven years to make her first fictional feature film, “The Day I Lost My Shadow”, which draws on her own experiences as a young woman at the outbreak of war and will have its premiere in the Italian city on Monday.

The 38-year-old fled Syria for Lebanon in 2012 and shot the movie on the border between the two countries. Most of the cast were Syrian refugees.

“I insisted on included my community in the film. There is nothing like the real face of somebody who has endured war,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

Kaadan said she wanted to avoid the “stereotypes” of some news coverage in which “all the complexity of humans is erased – like images of refugees and terrorists … oversimplifications of what is happening Syrians during the war”.

“The most important thing is to show how a Syrian and a human being endures the war. We were not prepared for this war,” she added.

Syria’s seven-year war is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced 11 million from their homes. There are about 5.6 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries including Lebanon.

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