By Andy Sambidge
Twenty-five new grants awarded to film makers in the MENA region as movie production costs rise
Doha Film Institute (DFI) has announced at Cannes that 25 new grants for projects as part of its aim to give financial support to Arab movie makers.
As film production costs rise across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) amid changing political societies, DFI called for more collaborative financial support from the Arab world to support storytellers from the region.
For the first of two grant submission cycles, DFI has awarded five post-production, 12 production and eight development grants for filmmakers from the MENA region, it said at the world famous film festival in the south of France.
Grants have been distributed to recipients hailing from Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco, DFI added.
"In line with the organisation’s commitment to discovering and supporting new voices and perspectives, several of the grants have been allocated to support filmmakers embarking on their first full-length features," DFI said in a statement, without giving the total value of the grants issued.
The selected projects include sports and family themed-films centred on self-realisation and survival, films celebrating freedom of expression in the Middle East, nostalgic tales of love, longing and relationships, and political dramas about the effects of civil war, DFI said.
Amanda Palmer, DFI executive director, said: “The MENA region has always struggled to get financial support from the Arab world, and this year, we are already hearing that the impact of change has increased productions budgets and made it even more difficult for filmmakers to make their stories.
"DFI’s grants not only support established filmmakers, but in many cases we are providing young emerging talents, who struggle to be heard, the financial backing to enable them to transform their scripts to film.”
In 2010, the Institute supported six Middle Eastern films including Hawi (Ibrahim El-Batout), A Man of Honour (Jean Claude Codsi), Man Without a Cellphone (Sameh Zoabi), Grandma, a Thousand Times (Mahmoud Kaabour), The Mountain (Ghassam Salhab) and Where Do We Go Now? (Nadine Labaki).
In addition, DFI also announced its first international co-production Black Gold, with Quinta Communications – a $55 million Arabian family epic helmed by acclaimed director Jean-Jacques Annaud, and starring Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Tahar Rahim and Mark Strong.
Palmer added: “Now is a truly exciting time to be a young filmmaker in this region. We have a film industry that is evolving rapidly at many different levels, at a time where the perspectives of both young and old alike are pivotal to shaping the future, and we remain committed to providing an authentic platform to support and promote Arab voices and storytelling.”