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Innovative Middle East Fest to Launch in Amman

Variety logo Variety 5/23/2017 Nick Vivarelli
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An innovative film festival focused on first works from the Arab world is being launched by Jordan’s Royal Film Commission in tandem with Cairo-based marketing and distribution company Mad Solutions and the Arab Cinema Center.

The new Amman International Film Festival – Awal Film event, set to have its first edition June 20-25, 2018, in the Jordanian capital (pictured), will award prizes for directing, screenwriting, acting, cinematography, editing, music and production design displayed in first works by Arab directors. It has potential to gain traction as a significant industry incubator in the region.

The launch of the Amman fest is the latest development in the ever-changing Arab film festival landscape, following the recent announcement of the ambitious new El Gouna Film Festival being launching in Egypt in September, headed by respected Arab cinema expert and programmer Intishal Al Tamimi, and reports that the Marrakech Film Festival is in jeopardy after 16 editions following the resignation of its general director, Mélita Toscan du Plantier, in March.

The lineup will comprise competitive sections for narrative and documentary feature films, and also for shorts in both categories.

A selection of first works from outside the Arab world will screen out-of-competition. There will also be a sidebar dedicated to acclaimed auteurs, showcasing their debut features alongside their latest work. Other sections and activities, and also specifics on prizes, will be announced at a later date.

Jordan’s Royal Film Commission was set up in the tiny desert kingdom in 2013 with the King’s brother, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, heading its board. It has since been systematically working to build the local film industry, stepping up efforts to attract international shoots, such as Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” and concurrently fostering local filmmakers and original Jordanian content by offering a wide range of workshops. An example of these efforts bearing fruit is “Theeb,” the debut feature shot in the Jordanian desert by local director Naji Abu Nowar which scooped a foreign Oscar nomination in 2016. Nowar wrote the script for “Theeb” while at the Sundance Institute Lab’s first Middle East program set up with the Royal Film Commission.

“We are launching this unique festival with a different edge to focus on and encourage promising talents,” said Princess Rym Ali, who is president of new Amman fest, at its Cannes launch. “It is in line with what we strive for: developing and promoting Arab cinema that reflects the creativity of the region and tackles the issues that are relevant today,” she added.

“We hope that this festival will soon be known as a major platform, a home for new talents in the Arab world,” the fest’s president noted.

The new Amman International Film Festival – Awal Film event will also have an industry component: Jordan’s existing Film and Television Careers Connection (FTCC), launched in 2015, will be expanded in 2018 to coincide with, and enhance, the fest.

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