Two Palestinian titles to compete at Cannes

EUROMED Audio Visual 

Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar at Un Certain Regard, and a Gazan short in the competition

Two Palestinian titles to compete at Cannes

Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s latest narrative feature film, Omar, has been selected for the Un Certain Regard sidebar section at the Cannes International Film Festival in France from May 15 to 26.

Omar, the tale of three childhood friends and a young woman who are torn apart in their fatal fight for freedom, is said to be the first film to be fully financed by the emerging Palestinian film industry. It stars Palestinian-American actor Waleed Zuaiter (American television series Homeland), and is reportedly produced by him and David Gerson for new American-Palestinian production company ZBros. German international sales agent Match Factory introduced the title to buyers at the last Berlinale’s European Film Market.

It’s Abu-Assad’s first time to be competing at Cannes, after the success of his previous narrative features Paradise Now in 2005 (three prizes at the Berlinale, European Film Award for Best Screenplay, first Palestinian nominee for an Oscar) and Rana’s Wedding in 2002 (Golden Antigone at the Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival).

He thus follows in the footsteps of fellow Palestinian director Elia Suleiman who has attended the Cannes film festival multiple times, notably with Divine Intervention in 2002 (FIPRESCI Prize and Jury Prize), The Time that Remains in 2009 (Palme d’Or contender), and Seven Days in Havana, a film that he co-directed, in 2012 (selected for Un Certain Regard).

But there is even more good news for the Palestinian film sector. For the first time, a Palestinian film is to vie for the Short Film Palme d’Or this year.

Gazan brothers Mohammed and Ahmad Abou Nasser (also known as Arab and Tarzan Nasser)’sCondom Lead has been selected from 3,500 short films as one of the nine contenders for the world-famous award. The film, whose title is a pun based on the Israeli military’s name for the 2008 Gaza War, Operation Cast Lead, explores what becomes of ordinary passions between a man and his wife in the long interludes of a war’s heightened reality.

Condom Lead is the brothers’ second short after Colourful Journey and the first to be shot in Jordan. It is its lead actor Rashid Abdulhamid’s first production for Made in Palestine, as well as his and his fellow actress’ first time to act in a film, co-director Arab Nasser told Euromed Audiovisual by phone from Jordan.

The film’s idea and story was written by another Gazan filmmaker, Khalil al-Muzayen, whose DOCmed-supported documentary Gaza 36 mm, a film that notably stars the Nasser brothers, recently premiered in Beirut.

In 2011, the Nasser brothers told the Guardian that they had never watched a film in the cinema in their life. Now, less than two years later, their efforts are taking them to one of the most prestigious screening venues in the world.

“We have to go to Cannes,” Arab Nasser told Euromed Audiovisual. “It’s the chance of a lifetime!”

Alice Hackman

Picture: Condom Lead – Facebook page

Article appeared on EUROMED Audio Visual 

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