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Qatar- Five DFI-supported films on road to Oscar glory

(MENAFN – The Peninsula) As the pandemic rages on, there’s no doubt the awards season has been turned upside down and the 93rd Oscars is no exception with the ceremony having been postponed by two months from February 28 to April 25. 

While the road to the most awaited night in filmdom is still long, the excitement is all in the air not to mention the great anticipation for the official announcement of nominations in various categories, one of which is the Best International Feature Film where several movies funded by Doha Film Institute (DFI) are in the running.

Once again DFI has reaffirmed its crucial role in supporting quality films in the Arab world and international scene as five of the films which have received support through its grants programme are confirmed as the official entries of their respective countries to the 2021 Oscars Best International Feature Film category.

Most of these films are from the Arab world, one of which is the first-ever entry of Sudan to the Oscars, ‘You Will Die at Twenty by Amjad Abu Alala. 

Currently streaming on Netflix, ‘You Will Die at Twenty is Abu Alala ‘s first feature film and only the eighth feature film made in the history of Sudanese cinema, marking an important moment in the country’s cultural landscape. 
Having participated in a number of international film festivals, the film has scored a string of awards including the Luigi De Laurentiis Award at 2019 Venice Film Festival and the Grand Prix at 2020 Fribourg International Film Festival, among others.
Winner of the Audience Award at the 2019 Ajyal Film Festival, ‘You Will Die at Twenty takes a poignant look at the life of Muzamel, a Sudanese boy cursed by a Dervish prophecy that he will die at the age of 20, and how an old cinema projector opens a window to a whole new world for him. 

This coming-of-age film boasts of visual assurance and a fascinating story from a remarkable culture that rarely graces the wide screen.

Twin brothers Tarzan Abunasser and Arab Abunasser’s acclaimed ‘Gaza Mon Amour, another DFI-granted film, has been announced as Palestine’s official entry to this year’s Oscars.

‘A heartwarming, thought-provoking and poetic tale of unspoken emotions portraying daily life was how the jury described ‘Gaza Mon Amour when it won the NETPAC Award last year. 

The film which premiered to wide acclaim at the 77th Venice International Film Festival is a satire on love and desire, and an affirmation that life continues amidst the absurdity of living.

It is worth noting that DFI also previously supported the brothers’ first feature film, Dégradé, which was selected to compete in the International Critics’ Week section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Another DFI-supported film ‘The Unknown Saint by Alaa Eddine Aljem is Morocco’s official entry to the Oscars. 

The film tells of a robber who returns to the fake grave on top of a hill where he buried his loot years before only to discover that it has become the shrine of an unknown saint and a thriving little village which subsists mainly as a result of the economic activity generated by pilgrims visiting the shrine.

Aljem’s debut feature, ‘The Unknown Saint has joined several international film festivals including the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and won a number of accolades.

Jordan’s entry to this year’s Oscars is ‘200 Meters by Ameen Nayfeh, also a DFI-backed film. It is about a Palestinian man living on the West Bank and separated from his hospitalised son by the wall. He must embark on a harrowing journey to see him, thus, a distance of 200 meters becomes a 200-kilometer odyssey.

‘200 Meters bagged a dozen awards from different festivals around the world, two of which were from the recent Ajyal where it received the Audience Award and Best Feature Film in the Bader category.
In 2015, ‘Theeb, also a DFI-funded film, scored Jordan its first Oscar nomination.

The country with the most Oscar wins in the Best International Feature Film category, Italy has ‘Notturno, co-financed by DFI as its entry this year. This award-winning documentary by Italian director, cinematographer, producer and screenwriter Gianfranco Rosi is an immersive portrait of those trying to survive in a war-torn Middle East, and a mesmerising vision of a region on the verge of change.

Shot over the course of three years between Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan, and Lebanon, ‘Notturno follows different people from near war zones in the Middle East, trying to restart their everyday lives. 

It is a study of how borders have changed the destiny of people.

Since its establishment, DFI’s Grants programme has already helped numerous film projects in the region and around the world become a reality. 

Recently the Institute announced the recipients of its Fall 2020 grants which comprised 39 projects by first-and-second-time, and established Mena filmmakers from around the world, and emerging names from the region have been selected for the region’s leading film funding programme that cultivates the next generation of voices in film. 

The grantees included 22 Mena projects, 16 projects directed by women, eight non-Mena projects, seven Qatari projects, and two GCC projects.

The DFI Grants programme has evolved as a key initiative for identifying new cinematic voices and talent and discovering universally resonant stories. 

The programme is focused on supporting the region’s filmmakers to realise their storytelling aspirations by elevating original voices in cinema, promote creative interaction and provide creative support throughout the filmmaking cycle to establish a robust film ecosystem in the Arab world.

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