Cinema: at Tetouan, Mediterranean returns as protagonist

Increasing number of films funded by Gulf countries

03 April, 14:25

    A view of Tetouan A view of Tetouan

    (by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) - Tetouan (Morocco), April 3 - Gulf country money and young Arab and European talent. These are perhaps the elements that most stand out in this 20th edition of the Mediterranean Film Festival, continuing through April 5 in the northern Moroccan city of Tetouan. Beginning March 29, the exhibition has offered about 60 titles between feature films, documentaries, short films and homages coming from the four corners of the Mediterranean.

    Syria, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, France, Spain and Italy - the latter with an interesting selection brought by the Medfilm festival. Among the many films presented over the eight days of screenings, many were produced thanks to support from rich monarchies of the Arab peninsula. Like the opening film, by the well-known Syrian director Mohammad Malas, Echelle pour Damas (2013), a Syrian, Lebanese and Qatari co-production, or that of the closing, by Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, Omar (2013); or Il Va Bientot Pleuvoir, the Italian feature in the running created by Haidar Rashid thanks to financing from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in addition to Iraq and Italy. ''The films financed by the Gulf countries, with the UAE and Qatar in the lead, represent the majority of those that we have selected to offer this year,'' the festival's director Ahmed Housni told ANSAmed.

    They are new things coming forward, given that the film industry is in crisis in many Arab countries.

    ''It's an interesting strategy that started a couple of years ago by the Gulf (countries) to promote good projects. Just don't touch religion,'' the director remarked. This point of view is shared also by the president of the jury for documentaries, the Egyptian producer and director Marianne Khouri. ''From simple showcases, the festivals of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha had to transform into something more, producing Arab and Western films and talents''. This year Tetouan appears to be a town square in which Mediterranean hot topics are tackled: immigration, identity, exile, family, women. A lot of politics also stands out, like the Palestinian question, and the drama of refugees living in Syrian and Lebanese refugee camps - as two interesting documentaries tell: Beirut-Molholland (2013) by the Palestinian Fajr Jacob, and Les Chebab de Yarmouk (2013) by the French director Axel Salvatori-Sinz. Also the Syrian civil war in Eschelle pour Damas, the opening film by Mohammad Malas; and post-revolution Egypt; or Morocco and its internal contradictions and social conflicts. Film premiers that for the most part this year focus on two themes in particular, explained the event's director, ''Human rights and cinema in schools, or rather the attempt to introduce young people to the seventh art'' with two roundtables dedicated to them.

    Founded in 1984 as a ''Film Meetings of Tetouan,'' over the years the event has become the leading international film festival of Morocco, recalled Housni.

    Yet recently the event has hit hard times, as it is very different from the glamour and splendor of the festival of Marrakech. The city of Tetouan does not even support the exhibition, the director complained.

    ''In the last three years, with the rise to power of the Islamists of the PJD (Justice and Development Party) in charge of the city, we don't receive any support anymore''. Things, he concluded, must change and ''we will fight for this''.

    (ANSAmed).

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