The 2014 BBC Arabic Festival ran in partnership with the British Council. Over four days in November the iconic Radio Theatre hosted screenings of 20 films and 7 panels discussions with over 25 filmmakers, writers and journalists. The BBC Arabic Festival also hosted two workshops focusing on citizen journalism, with Egyptian media collective Mosireen, and the democratization of media, with Michael Rosenblum.
In 2014, many of our film directors created 1-minute videos explaining their work. Watch them here.
Om Amira (Amira's Mother) lives on a Cairo rooftop with her husband Gamal and her two daughters. One of her daughters suffers from heart disease. With her husband unable to work, Om Amira is left with no option but to be the sole family breadwinner. This she does by selling homemade fried potato sandwiches on her local street which has earned her the nickname - the 'Potato Lady'. Every night, from dusk through to dawn, Om Amira prepares, cooks and sells her famous sandwiches. Filmmaker Naji Ismail relays her story of strength and faith through a realistic, yet heart-warming, lens.
Director: Naji Ismail is a filmmaker from north Egypt. He graduated from the High Cinema Institute, Giza, Egypt in 2005 with a degree in directing. Since then he has taken part in a number of writing, producing and documentary workshops. In December 2012, Naji founded and launched his own production company Rahala.
Citizen Journalism Winner
Wound presents a personal yet politically relevant testimony of an intensive care nurse working in Damascus at the beginning of the uprising. Working with a group of medics alongside activists, she makes her way into fighting zones to stealthily help the wounded. Her taxing daily experience merges psychological trauma, physical danger and political determination towards a people's Syria. Despite the fears and horrors she faces on a daily basis, in this short film director Wael Kadlo relays her emotional resolve and her unyielding strength to use her skill to help her countrymen.
Director: Wael Kadlo is an aspiring documentary maker. He worked as a director's assistant on the feature length documentary Butterflies Roaming Around the Light. Between 2012 and 2013 he directed two of his own short films, Wound and Exciting Day. He is currently working on his own feature length documentary, Home's Road.
Short Film Winner
(Greek: ξένος, xénos) stranger, enemy, alien. In 2010, Abu Eyad and other young Palestinian men from the Ain El-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon travelled with smugglers through Syria and Turkey into Greece. Like so many other migrants, they came looking for a way into Europe but found themselves trapped in a country undergoing economic, political, and social collapse. Xenos is a short film blending footage shot on visits to Athens in 2011 with phone conversations recorded during Abu Eyad's time there. It tells of his day to day struggle for survival and enduring sense of exile in a land of hope that has become a nightmare.
Director: Mahdi Fleifel is a Palestinian filmmaker. His recent feature documentary, A World Not Ours (2012), won multiple awards including the Abu Dhabi, Berlin and Edinburgh Film Festivals. His next feature, Men In the Sun, based on the themes and characters encountered while making Xenos (2014), is currently in development as part of the New Danish Screen scheme.
Watch the BBC Arabic Festival Awards Ceremony here