Arab cinema fights to expand in Europe, with little success
For a society like France that enjoys rich knowledge about the Arab and Middle Eastern cultural background, Arab films are almost absent in movie theatres all over the country, according to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).
Not only the French, even the over four million or so Arabs living in France, who like to keep their culture alive, have little chance to watch movies from their region. As for the French public who frequently attend movies of foreign origins, language barrier has never been the case.
“French movie goers just don’t pay any attention to movies of different languages, the subtitle is always there,” Caroline Cesbron, head of the media department at the French National Center for Cinema, told the agency.
Director of the cinema department at the Arab World Institute (IMA), Majda Wassef, gave different reasons why Arab movies are not present in the French movie theatres. “Arab movies could have a market in western countries, but the problem is that Arab film producers have little budget,” she said.
“Not only that, she added, some of the movie directors don’t bother to invest in presenting their movies in small festivals.” She was referring to the 6th Arab Cinema Festival that was held in IMA last week, which brought 16 Arab movies from eight different countries for the competition. “Yes, we are not Cannes, but these festivals can open the door to have their movies sold abroad,” she said, adding that the problem is that their vision is just at a too short run. “If movie makers remain in focus of local market only, the western world, more particularly France, would never have the chance to learn more about the culture of the Arabs, she said giving an example, the French society is curious about the Arab movies mainly from the Arab northern African countries because they feel more concerned with this culture.
“But there isn’t any movie coming from that region for the largest Arab population or for the French,” Wassef said. She called on Arab movie producers to take the example of Yousef Shahin, the famous Egyptian movie director and prizewinner of Cannes Festival.
“Yousef Shahin’s movies meet a great success in France, not only because he is a strong defender of Francophony, but because he is well known by the French public and he was awarded several prizes in Cannes,” she said. His famous movie al Masir (destiny), remains one of the very few movies that was on screen for several months in France. France, one of the few world countries that support the presence of foreign culture in the country within different activities, has allocated a sum as an assistance to foreign movies.
Cesbron, whose center is the French money provider for non-French speaking movie production, admitted the fact that not many Arab movies come to the center for any financial or marketing assistance. Her center, she said, welcomes foreign producers who ask for the support to have their movies distributed in France. The center, after a thorough review by a special commission over the scenario, the technical and artistic quality of the movie, would decide whether to award the film the fund needed. “But unfortunately there are not many of the Arab producers coming to present their film to the center for them to be screened for a society that is more intellectual,” she said. She added that Yousef Shahin is one of the very few Arab movie producers who most took advantage of the center. “This is why his movies are often on the screens of the French cinemas, even if they don’t meet the expected success,” she said.
Both Cesbron and Wassif admitted the fact that the problem was not in France, but rather it was the lack of interest by the Arab movie industry to have a wider presence in the western world – Albawaba.com