‘Inshallah a Boy,’ ‘Black Light’ Among Final Cut Winners in Venice

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Venice Film Festival’s Final Cut, dedicated to films in post-production from African and Arab countries, wrapped its anniversary 10th edition on Sept. 5. As fest director Alberto Barbera welcomed the audience to “the final stage of the Final Cut,” La Biennale di Venezia Prize – and cash award of € 5,000 – went to “Inshallah a Boy,” directed by Amjad Al Rasheed.

Jurors Claire Diao, Rasha Salti and Gaetano Maiorino praised it for “brilliant direction and performances, tackling a really dramatic social issue and for honoring the resilience of women in a conservative context.”

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The film, a co-production between Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is overseen by Rula Nasser for The Imaginarium Films.

“We are just proud we made something that speaks to people,” she told Variety after the ceremony.

“We are still a conservative society, but this protagonist, this woman, she’s strong. She decides she needs to stand up and say: ‘I have rights too’.”

In “Inshallah a Boy,” Nawal, a mother and a housewife, is grieving the death of her husband when she discovers she might also lose her home. All because of the inheritance law, stating that if she doesn’t have a son, her husband’s family can claim most of the inheritance.

“It’s the house that she bought, with her own money. These laws were created so long ago and they simply do not apply anymore,” added director Amjad Al Rasheed, with Nasser pointing out that many women are actively trying to change it.

“If, God forbid, my father was to pass away, my brother would inherit twice as much. Religious people argue it’s because a man is responsible for a family. But we are women and we are working now, and we are supporting our kids.”

Upcoming drama was also awarded by El Gouna Film Festival and Festival International de Films de Fribourg, as well as supported by Oticons, which will allow it to collaborate with the composers represented by the company.

Karim Bensalah’s “Black Light,” about an Algerian student living in France and facing deportation, was noticed too. Sold by The Party Film Sales and produced by Oualid Baha for Tact Production, it scored awards from Laser Film, offering € 15,000 for the color correction, MAD Solutions, Sub-Ti Ltd. and Sub-Ti Access Srl, Rai Cinema and the Red Sea Fund.

Thierno Souleymane Diallo’s documentary “The Cemetery of Cinema” (France, Senegal, Guinea) picked up multiple awards as well, courtesy of the Cinémathèque Afrique of the Institut Français, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Festival International du Film d’Amiens and, finally, Eye on Films.

“My family was convinced I was wasting my time by focusing on cinema. Then I found out there was this film, the first ever in Guinea, and nobody knew anything about it. I needed to find out if it was real,” said the director, referring to “Mouramani” by Mamadou Touré and the search that followed.

“‘The Cemetery of Cinema’ is a film about me, but also about my country and maybe the history of cinema in general.”

While Beirut-centered story “Suspended” by Myriam El Hajj – produced by Myriam Sassine (Abbout Productions) and Carine Ruszniewski (Go Go Go Films) – will be supported by Mactari Mixing Auditorium and Titra Film, documentary “Land of Women” also got some attention, with Oticons and MAD Solutions deciding to join forces and collaborate with the filmmakers.

Directed by Nada Riyadh and Ayman El Amir, it sees a group of girls who form an all-female street theater troupe – a rather unusual sight in their ultra-conservative Egyptian village. The film is produced by Felucca Films, with Dolce Vita Films and Magma Films co-producing.

“We worked with many feminist organizations, ones that support women in arts and marginalized communities, and we first met these girls in 2016,” stated Riyadh.

“Others wanted to make films about them before, but they refused. They are an opinionated, cool bunch. But they got curious about the camera. For them, it was a new toy to play with.”

“Their performances were very courageous. This story asks questions that are important to us as well: ‘Can we preserve our freedom?’,” added Ayman El Amir. The film’s release will be accompanied by an impact campaign, he said.

“They want to build a theater there. We want to help them pursue at least some part of their dreams.”

“It has been 10 years, but the financial situation of many films from these countries haven’t really changed. Maybe it even got worse, also because of the pandemic,” summed up Final Cut curator Alessandra Speciale, noting the event’s crucial role.

“They still need this kind of support, also because in so many cases, they don’t have access to professional post-production services. We want to help them, but not just because they come from African and Arab countries. We want to help them because they are important, ‘auteur’ films.”

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