DIFF meets Annemarie Jacir

Sun Oct 21,2012

This month independent filmmaker and screenwriter Annemarie Jacir will head to the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival to showcase her feature film “When I Saw You”. Endorsed by the Dubai Film Connection, the film has been shortlisted to participate in the prestigious Contemporary World Cinema section. Named one of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema we caught up with Annemarie to talk about the film, the future and her inspirations... 

How does it feel to be selected for the prestigious Contemporary World Cinema section at the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the most prestigious festivals in the world?

Annemarie Jacir: I can’t tell you how excited I am for Toronto and what it means for me, and for the whole team, to be lucky enough to launch the film there. I have always wanted to have a film in Toronto but never did until now, so this is a very big deal. Because Toronto is so much about the audience and being an open festival, it’s the perfect place for the film. 

Is it unusual that this film was made without European co-producers unlike most films from the region but rather an Arab produced and financed film? Also can you tell us about the challenges you experienced making the film?

Annemarie Jacir: We have to break the system of reliance on Europe to make our films. They have been historically supportive, even if sometimes they have their own agenda. However we have to push our cinema to be supported by our own countries and break this dependence.  For When I Saw You, initially financing was the biggest difficulty, but thanks to early support from DIFF, AFAC, Abu Dhabi Film Commission, and the Sanad Fund, we were able to move forward. Later, others came on board, including the support of Greece, which is something very special to me considering how much difficulty they having economically.  Then we took some risks, one of them being that we shot without having the full financing complete. The reason for that is I had found a young boy I wanted to work with in the lead role, and I didn’t want to take the risk of him growing up and having to re-cast. 

How important is it for your work to be screened to international audiences and what are you hopes for your film making career in the future?

Annemarie Jacir: Audiences are the most important, not just international but especially our own audiences. It is extremely important that our films are seen as widely as possible. It’s why distribution is so important and having the support of film festivals, TV, and local media to help us bring these films to the audience. 

I hope to be able to continue making films, whether it’s writing, directing, or producing – different hats for different projects. At the moment, I am developing a new idea and I love writing, but I’d also love for someone to give me a beautiful, fresh script which I could direct. 

Your first feature film, Salt of this Sea achieved great critical acclaim and won many awards - how important are awards for filmmakers?

Annemarie Jacir: I don’t want to sound unappreciative for the awards I’ve received for my films. However at the same time, it’s all so subjective. I have served on enough juries to know that sometimes the best films don’t get the awards they should have, and sometimes it’s the mediocre films everyone can agree upon. Mostly it’s unfair, many times it’s a compromise for the jury to “agree”,…  Politics and personalities always play a part. And at the same time, many times a jury is totally unanimous. In the end, the best awards come from the audience. But awards can help you get distribution, get your film more attention so that it reaches a wider audience, and even allow you to make your next film, or pay off your loans!

How did you become a filmmaker and what advice would you give to other young Arabs who are pursuing the dream of filmmaking? 

Annemarie Jacir: I became a filmmaker by starting doing any film job I was offered, from picking up dry cleaning for a director, to painting sets, to guarding film equipment over night. I learned how to edit, I worked as a news camerawoman, studied the craft of screenwriting, and eventually chose to go to film school as well. The only advice I have to give is to develop thick skin and fight for what you believe in doing. 

Who have been your inspirations and whom do you hope to work with in the future?

Annemarie Jacir: Lots of people and lots of things – like poetry, food, and the sea. Inspiration comes in so many forms, in so many tiny moments, and in unexpected ways. People inspire me a lot, their hope, their strength, and their hearts. 

There’s a lot of people I’d love to work with it. Today I’ll say Tilda Swinton. Oh, and Brad Pitt. 

For more information go to http://whenisawyou.com/

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