Film harvest 2022 (4): Arab cinema is still active, despite the crisis

A review of her films…and the ten best among them

With the exception of the great renaissance that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has achieved in the field of cinema during the last three years, Arab cinema has failed in terms of talent and good achievements.

The Saudi renaissance is understandable and clear: the right decision to accept all worthy methods to establish and then present a thriving Saudi cinema industry. The areas of this industry start from the establishment of galleries and do not end with production, but go through the areas of support and establishment of international festivals, and other specialized ones, and attracting capital for photography within the Kingdom.

The goal is far more than the mere presence of Saudi cinema on industry and festival maps. Precisely in the fact that these steps come in line with the broad progress in all activities and areas of work in the Kingdom, as evidenced by the actual events that took place on the ground.

The Saudi experience

As for the cinematographic productions, those of which we have seen recently included in the Red Sea Festival, the effort is available, the interest is unlimited and the talents are motivated, even if among these productions there is not what is suitable for traveling far on the paths of integration and penetration of global markets, and the reason for this is that many directors write their own work, and as soon as they finish, they shoot the scenes and dialogues they wrote.

For that matter, the subject matter is bold, as in Muhammad Al-Salman’s “Crow’s Song” and Abdullah Arak’s “Kattar.” It’s not just literary boldness, but, basically, the boldness to work on an artistic perspective that required mastery, but that execution alone is proof that the director achieves what he wants and will achieve the best work next time.

The Saudi festival, in its second session (from December 1 to 8), showed as many as 43 Arab films in different sections in and out of competition. Some are better than others and more important, but all require attention. This is a good number for any festival that wants to provide moral support. Or financially, for Arab cinema What was missing in the activation was to provide media coverage that follows each film to increase demand for it, instead of that demand remaining dependent on the identity of the pioneers of each film according to the country of production.

“Crow’s Song” by Saudi Mohammed Al-Salman

External financing

“Festival of the Red Sea” came as a conclusion of four big festivals, all of which fall in the last quarter of the year, which, according to the dates, are festivals in Carthage (October (October) – November), Marrakesh (November), Cairo (November) and the Red Sea. Establishment of a new session of the El Gouna Festival, but due to unclear reasons the session was canceled in order to be held next year. Media noise and the greatest interest in the work of the “Red Sea Festival”, but the festivals in Cairo and Marrakesh also took a good step forward . As for the Carthage Festival, he suffered setbacks that affected his efforts.

Each of these festivals featured Arab films, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq.

Some of the Arab films shown at these festivals are worth stopping at, because the production crises facing Arab cinema are still the same for various reasons, including the continued dependence on European funding, which creates the conditions for a deviation between the comprehensive vision of the Arab director, and the result which he achieves at the end of the work. Automatically, many Arab films dependent on European funds are made according to the wishes of the financiers, and not necessarily according to the vision of the director if he is talented.

We do not forget that Arab cinemas are based on the principle of showing (40 to 50 percent of their production) either at Arab or foreign festivals, or in commercial theater shows (the rest). On the other hand, Egyptian films are still the most popular, but their popularity is less than in previous decades.

If we put this fact to the test, it can be understood that one of the most important possible successes of Arab cinema is to find a way to jointly and uniformly show Arab films in all countries in terms of treating the Arab market in the way that Hollywood deals with its huge local market. It is not easy, but it will lead to an increase in demand for films coming from the East and West of the Arab world.

“Exodus” by Sadad Kaadan

– Top ten

The interest of Arab films in themes depends on the destination chosen by the working directors. There are only two destinations. He either makes serious films for serious audiences inside or outside the country if he can, or shows entertaining films for a wider audience, mostly in his own country.

In 2022, the pattern of Egyptian cinema continued without major changes. It is the year in which the director Dawood Abdel-Sayed announced his retirement in protest and the year in which the directors are still from the ranks of Ahmed Magdy (“Nobody There”), Tamer Al-Saeed (“The Last Days of City”) . “), Muhammad Hammad (“Dry Green”) and Hala Al-Qusi (“The Cactus Flower”). ”) and Karim Hanafi (“The Gate of Farewell”), among others.

Outside of Egypt, the absence of Lebanese Philippe Aractingi (“Listen”), Palestinian director Mai Masri (“3000 Nights”), Tunisian Alaeddin Selim (“The Last One of Us”), Algerian Yasmina Shuwaikh (“Until the End of Time”) and Jordanian Muhammad Al-Massad (“Until the End of Time”) continues (“Until the End of Time”). God willing, I benefited”), Moroccan Hisham Al-Asri (“The sea is behind you”), Iraqi Qassem Hawal (“Baghdad outside Baghdad”) and many others. In this lack arising from the lack of interest in finding a plan to support the aforementioned talents or other serious filmmakers who do not give up their ambitions, it was not difficult to choose the best Arab films that have been seen this year, knowing that the selected time period is from the end of last year to today. Some of these films differ from others in their degree of expertise, but they all add up to the best or most important films this critic has seen during the year (list in no particular order):

“What You Hear Was the Wind” by Ismail and Youssef Chebbi (Morocco)

“The Crow’s Song” by Mohammed Al-Salman (Saudi Arabia)

“Memory Box” by Joanne Hadji Toum and Khalil Joreige (Lebanon).

“Mediterranean fever” by Maha Al-Hajj (Palestine).

Hot bath Manal Khaled (Egypt)

“Kioko: Harvest of Dreams” by Hamid Benamra (Algeria, Syria)

“Octopus” by Karim Kassem (Lebanon).

“The Last” Adela Bendemrad, Daniel and Nouri (Algeria)

“Island of Forgiveness” by Red El Behi (Tunisia)

“I told you it’s over” by Elie Khalifa (Lebanon).

There were good Arabic films, but they were not of ideal quality to include the above. One of them is the film Sudad Kaadan, which tells the story of a Syrian family in a town located on the contact line of warring parties, with intentions divided between a father who refuses to flee and a mother and daughter to adopt him and thrive on him.

In this field is the film “Rijeka” by the Lebanese Ghassan Salhab, which wants to talk about many things such as passion, love, proximity and distance, and life in a political situation that we hear and do not see, but gets lost in symbols that seem less capable of achieving what is required of them.

Among those that emerged were the “Hanging Gardens” by Ahmed Al-Daradji (Iraq), who begins his work in an interesting way and then loses his compass, enjoying other suggestions and variations on the same sad mood.

As for the Algerian Merzak Allouache, he replaced his previous themes and the important suggestions they brought with a film that carries a light and clear television and comedic tone through his new film “Family”.

The fifth and last episode

Next week is all about the best international films.

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