Saturday,25 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February
Saturday,25 November, 2017
Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February

Ahram Weekly

Art house galore

Samir Farid attends the Berlinale

The Grandmaster
The Grandmaster
Al-Ahram Weekly

Last Thursday saw the opening of the 63th Berlinale. The awards will be announced at the closing ceremony on 16 February, with screenings of the Golden Bear winners in the short and full-length categories on the same day and screenings of all the winners the next day. No Arab productions are were selected for the competition, but the Saudi filmmaker Ahd Kamel’s Sanctity and the Italian filmmaker Mario Rizzi’s Suicide on Syrian refugees in Jordan, to which the UAE contributed, are part of the short film competition programme. A total of 304 films include two newly instituted programmes: Indigenous Population films and Berlinale Classics.
Of the 19 directors who contribute to the official competition, seven are well-known at the international level: the Americans Gus Van Sant and Steven Soderbergh, the Belgian Bruno Dumont, all three of whom are Palme d’Or winners, as well as the Iranian Jafar Panahi, who won a Golden Lion, the Bosnian Danis Tanovic, who won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the Austrian Ulrich Seidl and the South Korean Hong Sang Soo. Festival director Dieter Küsel thus stresses his interest in discovering new names. For the first time ever, three French stars compete for the Best Actress Award:   Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert for On My Way, Camille Claudel 1915 and The Nun, respectively. Competing for the Best Actor Award, too, is the Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen for his role in the American filmmaker Fredrik Bond’s The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, after winning Best Actor at Cannes last year. In addition, everyone is looking forward to Panahi’s Closed Curtain, which is competing for the Golden Bear.
Outside the competition, in homage to his struggle against the Assad regime from Paris where he is currently based, the Syrian director Osama Mohamed is at the centre of an unprecedented screening: that of his graduation project, the short film Step by Step (1979). The Panorama section, the largest outside the competition, includes 11 debuts and 20 films by female directors. It also includes two Arab films. The Palestinian-American documentary Art/Violence by Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni and Palestinian filmmakers Batoul Taleb and Mariam Abu Khaled deals with the assassination of the director and peace activist Juliano Mer-Khamis, who belonged to a mixed Jewish and Muslim family, on 4 April 2011 outside the theatre he had instituted in Jenin refugee camp. The second Arab film in the Panorama, by the Palestinian filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel, is the Lebanese documentary A World Not Ours. Another two Arab films are being screened in the Forum section: the Egyptian Hala Lotfy’s Coming Forth by Day and the Palestinian Anna-Marie Jasser’s When I Saw You. The three last-mentioned films all premiered at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival last year.
In the Expanded Forum, for art installations and experiments, there are four Arab contributions from the Arab world including Attiyat Al Abnoudi and Paul Geday’s Cafetria and Malek Helmi’s Recordings from an Interesting State: Part Three from Egypt.
When Küsel took charge of the festival he founded three new institutions: the World Cinema Fund, the Co-Production Market and the Talent Campus. Since 2004 the fund has helped 106 out of 1,879 medium- and low-budget films mostly, as per its brief, from Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. As for the Co-Production Market, it has accomplished 140 projects in the same period. In the 10th Market this year there are 38 out of 318 films including the Jordanian filmmaker Rami Yassine’s The Dog’s Tail. Among the seven companies selected this year as active and accomplished in the field of co-production is the Egyptian Mohamed Hefzi’s Film Clinic. This year Küsel also introduced a residency programme.

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