An Egyptian, a Jordanian, and a Lebanese walk into a film festival and take home awards
An Egyptian short film, a Jordanian documentary and a Lebanese animation film took home three Robert Bosch Stiftung Film Prizes for International Cooperation at a gala held during Berlinale Talents, a six-day creative summit for up-and-coming filmmakers at the Berlin Film Festival.
In its second edition, the awards competition recognises an international partnership between young German and Arab filmmakers. The categories are animation, documentary and short fiction film, and the films must be produced in Germany as well as in a partner Arab country that is one of the 22 member states of the Arab League. The competition stresses the aspect of intercultural exchange.
The winning short fiction film was Egypt's Dry Hot Summers, directed by Sherif El-Bendary, written by Nura El-Sheikh and co-produced by Claudia Jubeh (Germany) and Hossam El-Ouan (Egypt).
The 30-minute film captures the chance meeting of two lonely Egyptians on a bustling and hot summer day in Cairo. The day's journey disturbs the stifling routines of the two characters, taking them on an expedition of self-discovery.
The jury released the following statement about Dry Hot Summers: "The team convinced the jury for its very precise acoustic and visual concept and its love for details in a bitter-sweet story of ordinary people in a dusty hot city."
The winning documentary film was Jordanian. Dubbed Possessed by Djinn, the documentary looks at spiritual creatures in Islam and Arabic folklore, the djinn.
Written and directed by Dalia Al-Kury, and co-produced by Lino Rettinger (Germany) and Dalia Al-Kury (Jordan), the documentary was praised by the jury for "its stubborn determination to explore a story shrouded in prohibition, inhibition and prejudice, its honesty in a subjective and personal approach and its visually poetic language."
In the animation category, a Lebanese film dubbed Manivelle - Memories of the Man of Tomorrow came out on top. The 12-minute film follows an immortal robot that spent 75 years in Lebanon before searching for a final resting place. The jury granted Manivelle the animation prize for its ability to translate the country's tribulations through the characters.
"This project takes us through 68 years of Lebanon’s history. It was recognised for its artistic and creative approach, and most of all for its uniqueness," said the jurors.
Curator and programmer Rasha Salti, also a member of the jury, remarked that film is one of the most important ways of capturing the radical transformations unfolding in the Arab world.
"These are historic times; filmmakers are at the forefront of capturing the lived experience of change," she said.