Festival Cinémas du Sud - 2019 Edition
Amra and the Second Marriage
Satire with Saudi sauce
Saudi Arabia makes a stunning entrance to the 19th Festival « Cinémas du Sud » with the black comedy "Amra and the marriage" directed by Mahmoud Sabbagh. Two years ago, the filmmaker had a great success with his first movie, “Barakah meets Barakah”.
Picture from the movie Amra and the Second Marriage by Mahmoud Sabbagh
A wedding to start the festivities! It is one of the most expected movies of this 19th edition: "Amra and the second marriage" will open the festival Cinémas du Sud. An event for several reasons: first it is an opportunity to see a Saudi movie, but it also marks the return of film director Mahmoud Sabbagh, three years after the release of his first movie, «Barakah meets Barakah», presented at the Berlin Film Festival. This black comedy with a social satire background was also selected as the Saudi candidate for the best foreign-language film at the Oscars. Not surprising that the second film of the young Saudi writer-director was much awaited.
And once again, Mahmoud Sabbagh tackles patriarchy and religious oppression with a tremendous sense of humor. “Amra and the second marriage” tells the story of 44-year-old stay-at-home mother Amra discovers that her husband is considering having a second, younger wife. The woman in her forties is faced with a dilemma: accept or fight against this decision.
Mahmoud Sabbagh, fan of the Brothers Coen
In an interview given last October to the website Frankly My Dear UK, the director discusses the main themes of the film : « I want a proper dialogue about women’s rights and I wanted to make a gesture, a statement. Also, the film is not only about women, it’s about patriarchy, it’s about misogyny, it’s about an unforgiving society, it’s about stigmatization, particularly with the housewives and what they would face if they ask for a divorce or if they are divorced ». In this way, the filmmaker reconnects with black comedy to better twist the neck with clichés, with a stated ambition “have a film that is dark about a dark subject but in a light spirit.
And to spice up this social satire, Mahmoud Sabbagh uses a major ingredient: a jarring humor inspired by the universe of the Coen Brothers: “they are my first inspiration. I didn’t want to fully imitate them so I would think of what the Coen Brothers would do for the character – the 40-year-old housewife from Saudi. That is how I kept writing all the scenes.” A reference to the American brothers that Stephen Dalton, journalist of Hollywood Reporter magazine, has not failed to mention: «Amra and the second marriage» has a broader social sweep and sharper satirical edge, boldly squeezing irreverent humor from potentially contentious topics like the niqab veil, gender equality, religious hypocrisy, domestic violence, recreational drugs and sharia divorce law. Imagine “The Handmaid's Tale” rebooted as a Coen brothers’ comedy”. An amazing cocktail to open the festivities!
Click here to read Mahmoud Sabbah's interview, the director of AMRA AND THE SECOND MARRIAGE
5 things you need to know about Mahmoud Sabbagh
He was born in 1983 in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia
He graduated as a film director at Columbia University in New York.
In 2015 he founded «El-Housh Productions», the first independent film production company based in Jeddah.
His first movie, “Barakah Meets Barakah”, was released in 2016 at the Berlin International Film Festival.
He is currently working on his third feature film, which will also be a comedy.
The Day I lost My Shadow
The Syrian jewel
Syrian director of internationally acclaimed documentaries Soudade Kaadan has brilliantly made her debut in fiction with the feature film “The Day I Lost My Shadow”. A captivating movie that oscillates between a tale and the reality of a country at war.
Picture from the movie The Day I Lost My Shadow by Soudade Kaadan
This film was written in a country where the idea of tomorrow is incredible. The idea of future in Syria has become a luxury.” In 2018, filmmaker Soudade Kaadan, author of numerous documentaries on the daily life of Syrians, directed her first feature-length fiction film, “The Day I Lost My Shadow”. But for the Syrian film director born in France, reality is never far from fiction. Cooking hot meals to your child is a common gesture. Except when you live in a country at war. In search of a gas tank to feed her son, Sana finds herself stranded in a besieged area around Damascus, a place where she discovers that people are losing their shadow. “The day I lost my shadow” appeals dream and illusion to better portray the trauma of the civil war that has struck Syria since 2011.
Awarded at Venice Film Festival
For Soudade Kaadan, the use of fiction and the metaphor of the shadow was a saving to write about daily lives of the inhabitants in times of armed conflict: “I wanted to make a documentary about what was going on, but at that very moment I was unable to film,” said the Syrian director in an interview with Cineuropa - “I began to watch how other artists had written, filmed and painted the war and I found images of Hiroshima the day after the nuclear bomb not only destroyed the city, but also burned people to make shadows of them. At that moment I said to myself: I feel the same about Damascus. This is what is happening: we are walking, but without a shadow behind us».
Without ever falling into pathos and stereotypes, Soudade Kaadan signs a powerful fiction, already rewarded at the Venice Film Festival by the Lion of the future «Luigi de Laurentiis» of the best first feature film. A filmmaker to follow… like her shadow.
Click here to read Soudade Kaadan's interview, the director of THE DAY I LOST MY SHADOW
Soudade Kaadan takes the lead at Sundance!
Syrian filmmaker Soudade Kaadan, born in France, has won in February 2019 the Grand Jury Prize at the 35th Sundance Film Festival for her short film «Aziza». A black comedy on the theme of Syrian refugees, co-written with May Hayek. A beautiful gift for the filmmaker who will celebrate her 40th birthday this year!
A Suspended Life
Jocelyne Saab, the rebellious
The Festival Cinémas du Sud dedicates a special session in tribute to Lebanese filmmaker Jocelyne Saab, who passed away on January 7, 2019. His first feature-length fiction film, «A Life Suspended» will be screened on this occasion.
Picture from the movie A Suspended Life by Jocelyne Saab
Alternately war reporter, filmmaker, photograph, Jocelyne Saab has turned her life into a fight. Committed alongside the poorest populations, the Lebanese director has travelled the world and the times, with a camera in her fist, to denounce fundamentalism and to give a voice to the populations wounded by the war. Born in Beirut in 1948, Saab began a career as a journalist in the 1970s alongside Lebanese-American poetess Etel Adnan, who hired her at the as-Safa newspaper. Became a war reporter for several international television channels, she covers the October war in Egypt, the conflicts in Iraq and Iran.
When the civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1975, Jocelyne Saab began directing documentaries. A way for this reckless observer to denounce the violence in which her country falls. With “Beyrouth, jamais plus” (Beirut, never again) (1976), “Lettre de Beyrouth” (Letter from Beirut) (1978) and “Beyrouth, ma ville” (Beirut, my city) (1982), Jocelyne Saab signs an uncompromising triptych in bold style.
A major work to understand the conflict that has wounded Lebanon for fifteen years: “Jocelyne has instinctively grasped, thanks to his political courage, his moral integrity, and his deep intelligence, the very essence of this conflict. No document on this war has ever matched the importance of the cinematic work that Jocelyne has presented in the three films she has devoted to Lebanon,” said US-Lebanese author Etel Adnan.
“Fight to defend what I believed in”
Jocelyne Saab directs more than thirty documentaries on conflicts in the Middle East. A pioneer of the “new Lebanese cinema” in the 1970s, the filmmaker made in 1984 her first feature-length fiction film, entitled “A suspended life”. Also released under the title «Adolescent Sugar of Love», the film tells the love story between Samar, a young Lebanese woman exiled in Beirut during the occupation of southern Lebanon by Israeli troops and Karim, an artist with a dual cultural affiliation. Selected at the Cannes Film Festival at Directors' Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section), “A suspended life” marks a turning point in the Lebanese filmmaker’s career: «I wanted to move forward, work the image differently», confided Saab about her transition to fiction.
Twenty years later, «Dunia» comes out, a dramatic comedy in which Jocelyne Saab denounces excision, a widespread practice in Egypt. Filmed in Cairo, the film is scandalous, the Lebanese director received death threats from fundamentalists. Censored in Egypt, «Dunia» is hailed all over the world, especially in Sundance where it received the Jury Grand Prix. Marked for life by the film ban in Egypt, the filmmaker does not give up fiction and signs in 2009 «What’s going on? », a true declaration of love to his native land.
In 2013, Jocelyne Saab created the International Festival of Cultural Resistance in Lebanon. Before directing in 2016 what will be his last documentary, «One Dollar a Day» devoted to the daily lives of Syrian refugees. Despite the storms, the humanist filmmaker has always been able to stay the course: “I believe that what makes my journey special is that I have always wanted to remain consistent; I have always been ready to fight to defend what I believed in, to show and analyze this NearA changing Orient that I was passionate about”.
Jocelyne Saab, the rebellious, leaves to her death an immense and fundamental work for the history of men and cinema. Like a thumb one’s nose at all extremists.
1001 lives of Jocelyne Saab
Jocelyne Saab began her career as a war reporter for the as-Safa newspaper. Author of some 30 documentaries devoted to conflicts in the Middle East, she went on to fiction in 1985 with «A suspended life». In the early 1990s, she started the project to reconstruct the Lebanese Cinematheque. Renowned photographer and visual artist, she published “Zones de guerre” (War Zones) in December 2018, her first art book that covering all of her work.
A night trip to Cairo
Between reality and fantasy, shadow and light, Egyptian director Ahmad Magdy obscures the issue and makes an impression with his first feature film entitled “The Giraffe”.
Picture from the movie The Giraffe by Ahmed Magdy
A race against the clock in the streets of Cairo, a girl about to abort and giraffes playing hide-and-seek at the Giza Zoo. This is the stunning cocktail of Egyptian filmmaker-actor Ahmed Magdy’s first feature film. A drama with surreal accents, «The Giraffe» takes the spectator on a night trip through the streets of Cairo. A dive in the district of Maadi that starts a bit like a road-movie. Behind the wheel, Ahmed enters the deserted streets of Cairo: he must find money to help a young woman to abort. An act which still illegal in Egypt. On his way, the thirty-year-old meets an intriguing group of young people, led by a woman. But there is something even stranger: the group tries to solve the enigma surrounding a missing giraffe at the Giza Zoo. After making three short films (Zizo, Cream Cake and to the sea), Ahmed Magdy plays the surrealism card for his first “feature”.
To start with the title of the film that finds its origins in the filmmaker’s childhood: “I’ve always loved this animal. About 10 years ago I heard that we no longer have any giraffes in Egypt…And when I started writing I wanted to add this surrealistic and fantasy touch to the film. The giraffe symbolizes beauty, but also it transcends gender — male and female look exactly the same — and it’s an animal that makes no sounds which somehow represents our generation that is unable to express itself” the filmmaker told Variety magazine.
Challenge the taboos
On the side of the famous Hollywood Reporter, journalist John DeFore has a completely different explanation: “The movie's name refers to a story Ahmed hears while drinking in a park: The last two giraffes in Egypt, we're told, were a male and female living in different cities' zoos. A plan was hatched to bring the animals together so they could breed, but fate kept them apart. And then the female gave birth anyway, like a long-necked, ruminant Virgin Mary.” Everyone will choose their theory for the christening name of Ahmed Magdy’s “baby”.
But if the director-actor borrows the codes of the fantastic, it is to better challenge the taboos of the Egyptian society: “abortion is illegal in Egypt. And it’s also illegal to be pregnant without being married” recalls Ahmed Magdy in an interview given to Variety magazine. “So this young woman in my movie is likely to be criminalized just because she is pregnant out of wedlock. On top of that…she wants to have an abortion. So for most of Egyptian society she’s a criminal in more ways than one. I don’t agree with this. I think women have a right to have a baby out of wedlock and also to have an abortion. This is what I firmly believe in”.
Selected at the Marrakech Film Festival and the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) in 2018, the luminous “Giraffe” is also a cry of love towards young Egyptians: this movie “talks about believing in a miracle in this city [Cairo] where as young people we don’t express ourselves freely and where we don’t really feel connected to the city and most of what’s happening around us. We don’t believe in miracles and we are caught in day-to-day life. It’s a film for those who have somehow lost faith”. One thing is certain: we already believe in this young director with promising beginnings.
The Giraffe, the score is good
15: director Ahmed Magdy lived for 15 years in the Maadi district of Cairo, where the film «The Giraffe» was shot.
3: Ahmed Magdy directed three short films before making his feature film “The Giraffe”.
4: The Giraffe represented four years of work for the Egyptian filmmaker.
15 + (4 X 3) = 27: it’s in number of days, the length of “The Giraffe” shooting
Did you know that?
A recognized actor and young filmmaker, Ahmed Magdy graduated in law (Ain Shams University in Cairo) … but he is also a yoga teacher. Namaste!
Jusqu'à la fin des temps
Love to death made in Algeria
Love doesn’t know the age and talent is hereditary. The proof in images with the first feature film by Algerian director Yasmine Chouikh. It must be said that the filmmaker-journalist-actress was born into cinema set…
Picture from the movie Until The End of Time by Yasmine Chouickh
In Chouikh family, let me introduce to you the daughter, Yasmine. Born of the union of director-screenwriter Mohamed Chouikh and director-screenwriter-editor Yamina Bachir-Chouikh, Yasmine made a name for herself in cinema with her first feature film, "Until the end of time" (Jusqu’à la fin des temps). Released in 2016, this dramedy has won all the votes at festivals around the world. After making its first steps at the 2017 Dubai International Film Festival, the film received the Silver Prize «Alhambra de Plata» at the Granada Film Festival, the Grand Prix and the award for the best female performance at the Annaba Mediterranean Film Festival, but also the Grand Prix at the Muscat Film Festival.
Cherry on the top, Yasmine Chouikh’s first feature was chosen to represent Algeria at the 2018 Oscars. It’s hard for the young filmmaker to make her way better into the big leagues! Journalist for Algerian television, film critic, creator of the series «Studio 27» and author of two short films («El Bab», «El Djinn»), Yasmine Chouikh, 37 years old, already has an impressive resume. And also, a beautiful collection of international awards.
Love for everyone
Prizes for a bold and promising first film. “Until the end of time” depicts a love story begun in a cemetery between two sixties. A courageous starting point for a first feature film. Luminous and powerful, the scenario written by Yasmine Chouikh hits the bull’s eye. We follow, we vibrate for the heart of the gravedigger Ali, who got carried away from his first meeting with Joher, who came to visit her sister’s tomb. And the relationship between the two sixties is going to take another turn when Joher asks Ali to help him prepare for her own funeral. A request that will create a strong bond between the "guardian of the dead" and her beloved.
“I wanted to talk about a love born in a cemetery, a love story between two sixties no longer expecting much of life and thinking that they are only entitled to death; a metaphor of our societies that also tend to be sinister places where death is queen and love is taboo, and if love is tolerated, it remains the preserve of youth,” says Algerian filmmaker. Successful bet for the young filmmaker who made a place for herself on the international scene. Soon, people in Algeria will say: “One, two, three, Viva Yasmine Chouikh!”
Yasmine Chouikh, Bio Express
Yasmine Chouikh, Short Biography
Born in 1982 in Algiers
Degree in psychology and education science
Made her debut as an actress in 1987 in Mohamed Chouikh’s film «La Citadelle»
Hosted since 2005 a show about cinema on Algerian national television
2006: she makes her first short film, «El Bab»
2016: she directs and signs the screenplay of «Until the end of time», her first feature film
Morocco locked up
An ordinary emergency
In his second feature film, “An ordinary emergency” (Une urgence ordinaire), director Mohcine Besri takes the pulse of a Moroccan society in full evolution. The hospital of Casablanca serves as a backdrop for this drama, which is played behind closed doors.
Picture from the movie An ordinary emergency by Mohcine Besri
In the hall of the hospital of Casablanca, Driss, fisherman, and his wife Zahra await news of their son, Ayoub, 6 years old. The diagnosis falls: the little boy has a cerebral pathology. His chances of survival are low, he must be operated on immediately. For Driss and Zahra, this is the beginning of a painful challenge: are they ready to do anything to save their child? A few meters from the little boy, Ali, young depressed man, hospitalized after a suicide attempt. The destiny of both patients is in Tariq’s hands, a conscientious but overworked doctor.
In the hospital, social inequalities have become the daily lot of Moroccans. And it is this ordinary emergency that the Moroccan-Swiss filmmaker Mohcine Besri is directing in his second feature film. By using the public hospital as a symbol of social discontent, the director paints a portrait of Moroccan society in a metaphorical lock-up. “There was no better place than a hospital to tell the stories of a society’s ills,” says Besri. Mathematics teacher turned filmmaker, Mohcine Besri makes a point of defending public service: «health and education are pillars, every citizen should have access to it".
Illuminate the dark places of our societies
The only Moroccan film selected at the last Marrakech International Film Festival, «An ordinary emergency » questions as much as it pushes: “My film can even hurt, because it shows a painful reality to get the viewer to think. In my opinion, it is even the major role of cinema to ask questions and challenge. A filmmaker doesn’t give answers, since it is our politicians who claim to have them, and Woody Allen says it so well: “I have questions for all their answers”. My role as director stops at illuminating the dark places of our societies”.
A sense of commitment already there in his first feature film, «Les Mécréants» (The non-believers), released in 2011. On the theme of dialogue and acceptance of the other, this drama involving three young Islamists kidnapping a group of actors, had been praised by critics. Winning the Naguib Mahfouz Prize at the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). An activist, demanding cinema: Mohcine Besri has found the winning equation.
Mohcine Besri, short biography
1971: birth in Meknes (Morocco)
1996-2000: graduated in computer science at the University of Geneva. He is also a professor of mathematics.
2006: directed his first short film, "Kafka, dead or alive!" (« Kafka, mort ou vif! »)
2011: directed “The non-believers” («Les mécréants»), his first feature film.
2018: his film «An ordinary emergency” (‘Une urgence ordinaire”) is selected at the Marrakech International Film Festival
Palestine locked from the inside
With “Screwdriver” (“Mafak”), filmmaker Bassam Jarbawi writes a powerful first film about the daily life of a former prisoner against the background of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like an alarm sounded to the whole world.
Picture from the movie Screwdriver by Bassam Jarbawi
How to get back to normal life after spending fifteen years in prison? And how to reconnect with the daily life of a country in turmoil? Stuck between reality and hallucinations, marked by his years of imprisonment, Ziad tries to regain control of his life in «Screwdriver», the first feature film by Palestinian director Bassam Jarbawi. “I’ve always been interested in the consequences of prison, because once you’re in prison, there’s nothing else to do but try to survive. I didn’t know I wanted to make a prison movie. But when I left New York where I was studying film and came back to Palestine, I discovered that everyone lived in a prison, in a certain way. This is how I came up with the idea for the film,” says Bassam Jarbawi.
“Mafak”, which means screwdriver, addresses the question of reconstruction, of a man and a country. Closer to his subject, the filmmaker met Palestinian prisoners to tell their stories, their struggles: “it was important to prove that they were men first.” In «Screwdriver», Bassam Jarbawi denounces an imprisoned Palestine, locked from the inside, but in which reconstruction is possible. The filmmaker intends to broaden people's minds and give hope to his fellow citizens.
«It was almost impossible to make this film»
Armed with an iron will, the young director has overcome the shooting of his movie that was a tough obstacle course in Palestine: “The biggest difficulty to shoot the film came from the Occupation: you could not have the equipment you wanted, and neither the crew you wanted. You couldn’t move. It was almost impossible to make that film. By making a movie in Palestine, we prove that we can tell stories about this territory”.
Awarded the Best Film Prize at the International Bosphorus Film Festival, selected at the Mediterranean Film Festival in Montpellier (Cinemed) and the International Annonay First Film Festival, «Screwdriver» made a notable entrance into the international scene… and marks the beginning of a filmmaker on whom we'll certainly count upon in the future.
Bassam Jarbawi, a multi-talented artist
Bassam Jarbawi began his career as a photographer. He became an assistant operator and television news editor in the West Bank. After a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Political Science, he obtained a master’s degree in directing at Columbia University in New York. Bassam Jarbawi currently lives in Ramallah
My son, my flesh and blood
Look at me
After the success of «Bastardo» released in 2013, Tunisian filmmaker Nejib Belkadhi returns to fiction with a family drama on the acceptance of difference. “Look at me” (“Regarde-moi”) depicts an autistic father and son, trying to tame each other after years of silence
Picture from the movie Look at me by Nejib Belkadhi
Lotfi, a Tunisian immigrant living in Marseille, has a secret: he has two lives. One in France, with his girlfriend Monique and the one he could have pursued in Tunis, with the family he abandoned when he left. On the other side of the Mediterranean, his wife just had a stroke. Forced to get back “home,” Lotfi returned to care for their autistic little boy, whom he had never known. The 40-year-old will have to learn to establish a relationship with his son. It is this paternity quest that Tunisian filmmaker Nejib Belkadhi is directing in his second feature-length fiction film, “Look at me”. A moving family drama about guilt, forgiveness, in which the filmmaker tackles the theme of autism with subtlety.
A story inspired by the series Echolila Series by the American photographer Timothy Archibald about his autistic son. And to be as fair as possible, Niejib Belkahdi immersed himself in the daily lives of children and their families in specialized centers. An immersion that allowed him to give "Look at me" a sincerity without ever falling into pathos. “The whole difficulty in this film was to seek emotion in restraint. You can’t play with a subject like that, you have to be fair,” the filmmaker says.
«An ode to difference»
Successful bet for the director: since its release in 2018 «Look at me», has become the whooping cough of many international festivals. From Marrakech, Toronto to the Carthage Film Days, the story of this father-son affair strikes the hearts of film lovers around the world.
Through autism, Nejib Belkadhi explores the theme of accepting difference in an ultra-standardized society, “Although autism is center in the film, I believe that “Look at me” is first and foremost an ode to difference. We live in societies where everything that comes out of the executive ranks is still very poorly perceived. Where a disability, a sexual orientation, a haircut can lead to exclusion. Violence. I believe that filmmakers must be the first to draw attention to intolerance.” A film like a declaration of love to all excluded.
Nejib Belkadhi, a festivals favorite
Actor, producer and director, Nejib Belkadhi made his name with his documentary “VHS Kahloucha”, presented in Cannes in 2006. Best Documentary Film Award at the Dubai International Festival, the Tunisian filmmaker’s first feature film was also selected in the “World Documentary” section at the Sundance Festival. Seven years later, his first feature-length fiction film, “Bastardo” had received the best film award at the Milan African Film. Nejib Belkadhi has not finished collecting awards!
The Reports on Sarah and Saleem
Muayad Alayan’s second feature film, “The Reports on Sarah and Saleem”, combines marital drama and thriller against the backdrop of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A story taken from a true story. Evidence that reality sometimes transcends fiction
Picture from the movie The Reports on Sarah and Saleem by Muayad Alayan
Sarah and Saleem love each other, even though they are already married on their own. An extramarital relationship that might seem banal. It is not. Sarah is Israeli and Saleem is Palestinian, and both live in Jerusalem. And when the two lovers are spotted in the wrong place at the wrong time, their fate will change. In Muayad Alayan’s film “The Reports on Sarah and Saleem”, the story of a mixed Israeli-Palestinian adultery couple collides with political conflict.
Three years after the worldwide success of his first feature film «Love, larceny and other complications», the Palestinian filmmaker makes a winning come-back. This time, there is no question of stealing cars, but rather of a devouring passion that will take on a dangerous political dimension. When Sarah, a coffee shop owner and Saleem, a delivery boy, argue in public, their spouses discover theirs lies. But the consequences will be terrible for Saleem, which is becoming the target of the Israeli security forces.
The Alayan Brothers, a winning duo
The bond between these two is constantly weakened by a power imbalance: Sarah runs a business, Saleem is a delivery man. Even the city seems to be ruled by Israeli forces. Sarah therefore holds Saleem’s destiny in her hands.
With «The Reports on Sarah and Saleem», Muayad Alayan signs a real conjugal thriller based on political and social issues. An exciting story that has already granted with the special Jury Award and the Hubert Bals Fund Audience Award at the 2018 Rotterdam International Film Festival. Awards that the filmmaker shared with his brother Rami, author of “The Reports on Sarah and Saleem”. A second collaboration turned into a masterpiece for the two brothers who had written «Love, theft and other entanglements” presented as a world premiere at Berlin Film Festival. Like the brothers Coen and Dardenne, the Alayan duo makes sparks on the big screen!
Muayad Alayan, short biography
Born in 1985, Muayad Alayan is a Palestinian director and producer. He studies directing in San Francisco. His graduation film, “Exiles in Jerusalem” won the Kodak Prize in 2005. Ten years later, his first feature film «Love, theft and other entanglements” was premiered worldwide at the Berlin Film Festival. It has received two awards at the Best Arab Narrative Film Awards. Muayad Alayan is the co-founder of PalCine Productions, a collective of audiovisual artists based in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.