Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Agonies and Angst of the Films Committee

Films had started trickling in much to the delight of the films committee. What had seemed unachievable some time back-getting quality films to be screened at the festival- now seemed attainable.

It was refreshing to come across filmmakers who really believed in what we were doing. Like Anne Marie Jacir, the award winning Palestinian filmmaker of “Salt of this Sea”, who intervened on behalf of the Cairo Refugee Film Festival with the producers of the film. The result was that we got the perfect film to open our festival with.

The Movies that Matter, a Netherlands based foundation proved to be a good resource for starting on the kind of films that we wanted for the films that we wanted for the festival. We had approached them for funds-that took some time reaching fruition but their recommendation as to films that can be screened was timely and welcome. We also drew inspiration from other Film Festivals around the world.

While selecting films, the films committee had to strike a balance between art and academics. The Cairo Refugee film Festival aims to bring the narratives of the trials, tribulations and the triumphs of the refugee community into the public sphere and at the same time ensure that the narratives are entertaining enough to attract the host community (Egyptians).

At times, the films committee felt like a trapeze artist walking the tightrope. Some films were really interesting but too academic. Some were entertaining but not a true reflection of the circumstances. Over the course of 20 meetings or maybe more, the films committee selected films that would be educating, entertaining and non-controversial too.

Illegal Economic Migrants Vs Refugees-This issue was debated extensively during the meetings and the sound bytes generated would have been enough to fill the pages of a research project on the subject. We wanted films that dealt with refugees who had fled their countries due to persecution and share stories about their success in rebuilding their lives despite all odds.

We are proud of getting films like “Slingshot Hip Hop”, which will be premiering in Egypt at the Cairo Refugee Film Festival and was the official selection at the Sundance Film Festival 2008. “The New Year Baby” is the winner of the 2007 Amsterdam International Film Festival Movies That Matter Award. It is a documentary film on a girl born in a refugee camp on Cambodian New Year.

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