x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Cannes boosts Middle Eastern filmmakers

Cannes Film Festival 2011: from more funding opportunities for Middle Eastern filmmakers to crowd-pleasing appearances on the red carpet.

Johnny Depp at Cannes after the screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Johnny Depp at Cannes after the screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

The opportunities for filmmakers to find finance for their films were given a boost in Cannes with the official announcement of a new film fund based in Jordan and a call made by the Doha Film Institute for a regional, rather than national-based, approach to financing films.

A fund of 500,000 Jordanian dinars (Dh2.6million) has been established by the Royal Film Commission - Jordan (RFJ) is to provide grants for the production of narrative, documentary and short films.

George David, the general manager of the RFJ, said private investors would also be encouraged to invest in the fund and ensure in its sustainability.

The fund stipulates that 60 per cent of all dialogue, narration and voice-over must be in Arabic and that a Jordanian national must have one of the producer roles. Applications for the fund will be accepted from July 1.

The Doha Film Institute (DFI) announced that it would be giving 25 new grants to filmmakers from across the Middle East and north Africa and called for a more collaborative approach from the Arab world to support filmmakers from the region.

Sheikh Jabor bin Yousuf Al Thani said: "A support system of this nature is something that is vital to building a credible and sustainable local and regional film industry. It also sends a message that Qatar is not only supporting the building of its own industry, but also strengthening the regional one.

"We are proud to be contributing to the development of these creative industries and serve as a stepping stone for regional filmmakers to showcase their creativity to the global community and hope to discover the next gems in world cinema."

The recipients of the five post-production, 12 production and eight development grants come from Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. The films are a mix of documentaries and fiction on a range of topics and subjects. The DFI also announced that it would be accepting new applications between June 1 and July 15 this year.

The DFI executive director, Amanda Palmer, said that over the next year: "We will have to go into north Africa and find filmmakers to help and support them. We want people to realise that we are not just a fund for Qatar and that we want to support films across the region."

She also told The National that the DFI would be open to doing co-productions across the region.

The number of funds and grants being announced at Cannes highlights the growth of the industry in the region.

Antonio Banderas, one of the stars of Black Gold, which is to show at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in October, was in Cannes promoting Puss in Boots, one of several films where footage was being shown to buyers. The talk at Cannes was how good the promos were for the adaptation of On the Road, by Walter Salles and The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep. There were also 40 minutes shown of Super 8, the big summer blockbuster from the Star Trek director JJ Abrams.

The premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides saw Johnny Depp walk the red carpet. It's been a number of years since the festival has seen such a huge crowd and Jack Sparrow did not disappoint. The press conference featuring Depp and his new co-star Penelope Cruz saw the star sing the praises of the festival by stating "Cannes is the pinnacle. We're all very honoured to be here."

Depp also said that we're likely to see him play the pirate again: "How many more Captain Jacks? I think the possibilities are endless. But these films are made for the people, and it's the people who go and pay their hard-earned money to see these things and, if the people get turned off it or something, that's when it stops, I think... It's for the people. As long as they want it, I'm there."

Judging by the happy faces in the crowd at Cannes, the people definitely want it.