x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Sanad unveils recipients of film grants at Cannes

Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) has used the cinematic pandemonium of the 67th Cannes Film Festival to announce this year’s first cycle of Sanad recipients.

Iraqi-Kurd director Hiner Saleem’s new film, Money Baby, is among the productions that will receive Sanad funding. Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP
Iraqi-Kurd director Hiner Saleem’s new film, Money Baby, is among the productions that will receive Sanad funding. Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP

CANNES // Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) has used the cinematic pandemonium of the 67th Cannes Film Festival to announce this year’s first cycle of Sanad recipients.

Now in its fifth year, Sanad, ADFF’s development and post-production fund, has supported 100 films and about 90 filmmakers from the region to date, doling out US$500,000 (Dh1,836,500) to film projects a year.

The people behind the 10 films set to receive development or post-production grants are an eclectic mix of new and established names, including some familiar faces at regional festivals. Egyptian filmmaker Ibrahim El Batout, whose Winter of Discontent screened in Dubai in 2012, has produced a new film, Cat, starring actor and former collaborator Amr Waked. It is about a man who tries to stop a gang of human traffickers.

Lebanese director Ghassan Salhab’s The Valley tells the story of a man who loses his memory and is taken to the Bekaa Valley.

Other films such as Money Baby by Hiner Saleem, and Hedi by Mohammed Ben Attia also made the cut. Mr Saleem screened My Sweet Pepper Land, his highly acclaimed and Sanad-supported film at ADFF last year. Mr Attia, a Tunisian, received grants for his previous works Foreign Body and Cursed by the Phosphate.

“I think this year is going to be difficult for me,” said Intishal Al Timimi, the head of Sanad and ADFF’s head of Arabic programming. “Each year, I dream of maybe having five films in the competition. But this year we have excellent possibilities. I think there are going to be some arguments.”

Sanad-supported films are not solely confined to screens in Abu Dhabi, with many subsequently being screened internationally.

Egyptian auteur Yousry Nasrallah’s After the Battle is among the most talked about films in Sanad’s five-year history. It was screened at Cannes in 2012 and won him Variety magazine’s Middle East Filmmaker of the Year award.

The same year, Annemarie Jacir’s Palestinian drama, When I Saw You, won several international awards.

Sanad has also helped documentaries to flourish, with some screened in Abu Dhabi and across the world. One of them is Dubai-born Mahdi Fleifel’s A World Not Ours, about residents of the Ain Al Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.

“It went to 100 film festivals and won 28 awards, some of them very big,” Mr Al Timimi said of the documentary. A World Not Ours was the only Arab film to win a Black Pearl award for best documentary at ADFF in 2012. Last year, it was included among the 100 greatest Arab films at the Dubai International Film Festival.

“Two years ago we had the strongest selection of documentaries in the history of Arab festivals,” said Mr Al Timimi. “Of five films, three of them won awards … this year I think it’ll be better.”

Mr Al Timimi cited The Wanted 18, a film by Amer Shomali, who was awarded a Sanad grant recently, as an indicator of the fund’s success.

“It’s about how 18 cows became a danger to the national security of Israel. The film is funny and serious, it’s one of the greatest films I’ve seen in the past 10 years,” he said.

Although Sanad provides much-needed funds to film projects, it does more than simply finance a film’s production. On the first day of the Cannes film festival, Mr Al Timimi met Iraqi director Samir, who was there to screen his Sanad-supported, three-dimensional documentary Iraqi Odyssey. The documentary will be screened in Abu Dhabi this year.

“He came from Switzerland for five hours to show us the first 30 minutes of the film,’ said Mr Al Timimi. “He wanted a non-European eye to look at the film. So we don’t only give money, we give advice, we give our view. And the film was wonderful.”

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