Thursday 16 May 2024

1st MIFF (30/5/24–2/6/24)

The inaugural edition of MIFF runs May 30th–June 2nd in London’s Leicester Square. Championing the narratives of international Muslim filmmakers and highlighting their compelling stories, the Muslim International Film Festival is also a platform for productions inspired by Muslim culture and faith, embracing filmmakers of all backgrounds. At a time of polarised public opinion and a prevalence of negative portrayals of Muslims in the mainstream media, MIFF has arrived on the international film festival circuit with a mission to celebrate and amplify the diverse voices that explore the rich tapestry of Muslim experiences via the medium of film. 

This first edition showcases the breadth of Muslim storytelling with premieres of acclaimed new features set throughout the world including the UK, Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia, Jordan, and Sudan. MIFF is supported by UK Muslim Film (UKMF), a charity working to change perspectives by championing underrepresented talent and voices, both onscreen and behind the camera. UKMF recently worked as cultural consultants with C4’s comedy drama Screw, ITV’s Good Karma Hospital, C4’s Hollyoaks, and Columbia Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, ensuring that cultural and faith-based aspects of storylines are portrayed accurately. 
Sajid Varda, Festival Director of MIFF says: “We’re absolutely thrilled to bring this festival to London, where we’re on a mission to weave together cultures through the magic of cinema. MIFF is not just a festival; it’s a vibrant celebration of cultures and stories from across the Muslim world, providing a spotlight on talented emerging and seasoned filmmakers from all corners of the globe. As we bring together the film industry and filmmakers alike, our line-up features some of the most courageous and creative minds – each one bringing their A-game to the big screen. These are stories that pack a punch, that resonate deep within, and remind us that there’s more that unites us than divides us.”
The 1st MIFF opens with the London premiere of Belgian co-production Hounds. A multi-award winner including Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes, it portrays a father and son in the suburbs of Casablanca who get by on petty crimes for a local mob. Acclaimed supernatural drama Behind the Mountains sees a man who violently breaks free from his banal environment, evading society with its principles, codes and institutions. A multi award-winner at festivals including Cannes and Red Sea International Film Festival, Inshallah a Boy (pictured above) sees a widow pretend to be pregnant with a son to save her daughter and home from a relative exploiting Jordan’s patriarchal inheritance laws.

Image: BFI

Wednesday 8 May 2024

IFFR: Hubert Bals Fund Announces HBF+Europe Titles

The Hubert Bals Fund (HBF) of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) has announced the ten co-productions awarded €60,000 each through its HBF+Europe support schemes, with eight supported for co-production and two for post-production. The selection comes with a strong commitment to emerging talent, supporting a majority of first or second time feature filmmakers and covering a wide geographical spread, with filmmakers from Singapore, Turkey, Lebanon, Chile, Tunisia, Mexico and Argentina. 

Tamara Tatishvili, Head of the HBF: “While demonstrating an impressive range of artistic approaches, all the projects in this selection call for the need to make our world a better place. Each production team follows a complex path to bring projects to fruition, and in cases like the two supported projects from Argentina, these funds will prove crucial to realising ambitious, artistically driven work. I am proud to make the HBF part of these strong collaborative efforts between international producers and selected filmmakers.”

The topic of migration is present throughout the selection, notably in Love Conquers All; Marie & Jolie similarly deals with movements of people. Bruno Santamaría presents a 90s-set story in Seis meses en el edificio rosa con azul; another period tale is Hijas únicas. The ghosts of the Paraguay War haunt the community in El mundo es nuestroOlivia tackles the theme of disappearance; Agora is the second project supported for post-production. One of the eight projects selected for Co-production Support must remain anonymous.

Two of the projects selected are Netherlands co-productions, both debut features. As Shadows Fade by Turkish filmmaker Burcu Aykar is a poetic, multilayered narrative that deals with queer issues and women’s liberation in 1990s Turkey, and is co-produced by Amsterdam’s Isabella Films. Set in an all-girls school in Singapore, Amoeba by Siyou Tan is supported for the third time by the HBF, following development and NFF+HBF funding, and is co-produced with Rotterdam’s Volya Films. 

Source/images: IFFR

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Beyond the Raging Sea (Marco Orsini, 2019)

Beyond the Raging Sea follows the harrowing tale of Egyptian adventurers Omar Nour and Omar Samra (Team O2) as they take on the Talisker Atlantic Challenge, an unsupported 3,000 nautical mile journey from the Canary Islands to Antigua.  After two years of preparation, with little open water experience, Team O2 embark on the world’s toughest row. Sponsored by DHL, and in collaboration with UNHCR and UNDP, they dedicated their journey to the displaced people who face peril crossing dangerous seas.

On Day 9, 600 miles into their journey, disaster strikes when Team O2 is hit by 45-knot winds and 8-metre waves that cause their boat to capsize. As they struggle to maintain their grip on a barely inflated life raft, Samra and Nour face the same dangers and decisions as the refugees they seek to aid, in this daring true-life rescue story. A survival story of epic proportions, Beyond the Raging Sea is a gripping first-person account of that experience narrated by those who lived it, capturing what they endured, what they felt and what it meant.

Beyond the Raging Sea was written and directed by Marco Orsini, whose Gray Matters screened as part of Design Museum Brussels' 2022 CineDesign programme. He is the writer, director and producer of seven acclaimed documentaries. Starting his career in television in the 90s, Marco produced 60+ hours of primetime programming for US and South American markets before turning his talents to writing and directing. His award-winning films and scripts have been translated into French, Japanese, Arabic, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish.

Omar Nour is an entrepreneur and retired professional triathlete. He represented Egypt on the Olympic triathlon circuit from 2010–2017. In business, he is the co-founder of VENTUM—a performance bike company—and the founder and chairman of Enduro Supply. Omar Samra is an adventurer, mountaineer, entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and future astronaut. He is the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest and the Seven Summits and ski to both the geographic south and north poles (the Explorers Grand Slam).

Source: Springer Associates PR

Images: Ben Duffy