DIFF Daily 2011

Variety: Royal influence pays off in Middle East

Dec 08,2011 - 11:01 PM

BY ALISSA SIMON
As the 2010 Dubai fest drew to a close, Jordanian feature ‘Transit Cities’ from helmer Mohammad Hushki nabbed the special jury prize in the Muhr Arab competition as well as the international film critics' award. That pic also marked the first production to emerge from an innovative programme Jordan's Royal Film Commission (RFC) designed to produce quality, low-budget features.

This year, two other RFC-produced films, ‘The Last Friday’ and ‘A 7 Hour Difference,’ will compete in Dubai.

Without a doubt, the RFC can claim responsibility for the steady growth of Jordanian production and the development of an internationally competitive industry. Since launching in 2003, it has organised numerous workshops and training programmes in various disciplines, educating more than 5,000 participants.

To assist those with a viable first feature screenplay, the RFC introduced the Educational Feature Film Program in 2010 to fund and further train filmmakers and crew. Projects receive a budget roughly equivalent to $100,000 and professional mentors.

RFC general manager George David says, ‘We designed this programme to give filmmakers, crew and actors an opportunity to learn, practise and experiment, while realising a feature-length narrative that can be appreciated by audiences across the globe.’

The five features supported by the programme so far range across genres and subject matter. Visually striking contempo drama ‘The Last Friday’ from helmer-scribe Yahya Abdallah boasts an impressive pedigree, including support from Dubai's post-production fund Enjaaz and four post-production awards from the San Sebastian fest's Cinema in Motion.

Meanwhile, Deema Amr's slick romantic comedy ‘A 7 Hour Difference’ centres on a college student whose American boyfriend pays a surprise visit to her wealthy Amman family.

Forthcoming features include ‘Line of Sight,’ a suspenser from Aseel Mansour that started shooting in October and Fadi Haddad's cross-cultural romancer ‘When Mona Lisa Smiled,’ which is in post.

This fall, the RFC announced the establishment of the Jordan Film Fund to support development and production of narrative features, documentaries and shorts on a more professional level. Can a Jordanian competitor at Cannes be far behind?

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