Every young director's dream: Cannes exposure a great opportunity for Jordan's film industry
Out of the three Jordanian shorts showcased within the Cannes International Film Festival’s Short Film Corner this year, two are the directorial debuts of young Jordanian women, “Horizon” and “Ismail”, respectively directed by Zain Duraie and Nora Alsharif.
In spite of the recognition the shorts have already received at worldwide festivals, being presented at Cannes takes on a special value, not only for the directors’ personal careers, but also for Jordan’s future film industry, they said in separate interviews with The Jordan Times.
“Ismail”, which depicts Palestinian artist Ismail Shammout’s life as he was forced to leave his homeland in 1949, was a joint endeavour by fresh graduate Nora Alsharif and her father, Hatem Alsharif, a close friend of the artist.
“My father always loved his [Shammout’s] stories from the camps. Obviously his life afterwards was interesting too, but it was more interesting for me to summarise the cause he fought for later,” Alsharif said.
While “Horizon” depicts the struggle of an illiterate Jordanian woman who has to confront her husband to keep her children at school, both shorts showcase issues that contrast starkly with the glitter and glamour of Cannes’ red carpet.
“We are still a third world country... and that is why I made this film; we are trying to change mentalities, raise awareness and suggest new ideas through the peaceful way of making films,” Duraie said.
Noting that Jordan is a land of contrast and that it should not be sized down to the situation depicted in her film, the 24-year-old also highlighted that having three Jordanian directors showcase their films in a prestigious festival was a good way to show the versatility and richness of the country.
The third Jordanian film presented at the Short Film Corner is animated short “House” by director Ahmad Saleh.
For the second year in a row, Jordanian names are presented within the Cannes festival as Zaid Baqaeen was the director of photography for “Condom Lead”, presented at the official competition in 2013, something that the young directors hope will strengthen Jordan’s film industry.
“The RFC [Royal Film Commission] did a lot of work to help us, and they support us filmmakers whether the film makes it or not… but there is still a matter of resources, and we need to build capacity and increase the number of specialised training to have a professional industry,” Alsharif said, adding that it could help Jordan attract more funding for future films.
Besides, she also noted that finding outlets for Jordanian films was an issue, with few local movies making it into the mainstream cinemas of the Kingdom or only for a short duration, unlike popular American blockbusters.
“We need to start thinking outside of the box because this is not about making money; this is about representing a country and these films show a lot of our culture, a lot of our stories and there are so many more stories in Jordan that could be told, with universal themes that can be related to anywhere,” Alsharif said.
The financial issue though remains a major impediment to the development of Jordan’s film industry, according to the directors, who voiced hope that having their films presented in Cannes could help them secure further funding opportunities for their upcoming feature films.
The 67th Cannes festival opened on May 14 and closed on Sunday.