UK-Palestinian director Farah Nabulsi, who was Oscar-nominated this year for her debut short The Present, has secured the backing of the Doha Film Institute (DFI) for her upcoming first feature The Teacher.
It is one of 32 projects hailing from 13 territories to receive funding from the Qatari institution in its spring 2021 grants round.
According to a logline provided by the DFI, it follows “a Palestinian teenage boy who discovers his teacher is involved with the darker side of resistance and feels emboldened to seek revenge for the death of his brother”.
London-based Nabulsi’s short film The Present propelled her onto the world stage earlier this year after it was nominated in the short film category of the Academy Awards and was subsequently acquired by Netflix.
It stars Saleh Bakri as a Palestinian man living in the West Bank who sets off on a quest with his young daughter to buy his wife an anniversary gift, amid the complications of travelling around the territory.
It was produced by Ossama Bawardi under the banner of Philistine Films, his joint company with Annemarie Jacir, with Nabulsi taking an executive producer credit.
Other spring 2021 recipients include Syrian filmmaker, producer, and scriptwriter Hala Alabdalla, whose documentary I Am The One Who Brings Flowers To Her Grave played in Venice Horizons in 2016.
She has won support for her documentary Omar Amiralay - Sorrow, Time and Silence about the late Syrian filmmaker and political activist whose works included A Flood In Baath Country.
Nabulsi and Alabdalla are among 14 female filmmakers in the selection.
Further grantees include Jordanian director and former Screen Arab Star Of Tomorrow Amjad Al-Rasheed for his first feature Inshallah A Boy about a recently widowed woman who is desperately trying to conceive a son so as not to lose her home under local inheritance laws.
French-Palestinian-Algerian filmmaker director Lina Soualem has also won a grant for documentary Bye Bye Tiberius about actress Hiam Abbass’s trajectory from her village in Galilee to France to follow her acting dreams.
Soualem made waves on the festival circuit in 2020 with debut feature documentary Their Algeria which world premiered in Switzerland’s Visions du Reel festival.
Four film projects hail from outside the MENA region including Mexican director Miguel Salgado’s feature drama Shame about a young man whose life crumbles after he is taken hostage by a criminal gang and forced into committing a deadly act.
”The programme continues in its mission to amplify new talent and contribute to the development of independent cinema. We have supported more than 640 films from 70 countries to date and are now recognised internationally as an unparalleled development and financing entity for Arab cinema,” said DFI CEO Fatma Hassan Alremaihi.
2021 spring grants recipients (loglines provided by DFI)
MENA: Feature Narrative - Development
- Al Baseer – The Blind Ferryman (Switzerland, Qatar) by Ali Al-Fatlawi about Ayoub, who finds his way around the southern Iraqi marshes despite lacking eyesight, until one night he gets lost and meets a mysterious woman.
MENA: Feature Documentary - Development
- My Father Killed Bourguiba (Tunisia, Qatar) by Fatma Riahi, a personal quest by the director in the history of her father who wanted to be part of the 1987 military coup to overthrow the Tunisian regime.
- Yalla Parkour (Sweden, Qatar) by Areeb Zuaiter narrates the story of Ahmad’s passion for the sport of freedom, which drives him to break through the borders of his besieged city of Gaza.
MENA: Feature Experimental or Essay - Development
- Chasing The Dazzling Light (working title) (Syria, Qatar) by Yaser Kassab, is the story of Yaser, who on realising that his father who lives in Aleppo had an unfulfilled dream of becoming a filmmaker, decides to make a joint film with him.
MENA: Feature Narrative – Production
- Inshallah A Boy (Jordan, Egypt, France, Qatar) by Amjad Al Rasheed, narrates the story of Nawal, who after the death of her husband, must save her daughter and home in a society where having a son is a game-changer.
- The Teacher (Palestine, UK, Qatar) by Farah Nabulsi in which a Palestinian teenage boy discovers his teacher is involved with the darker side of resistance and feels emboldened to seek revenge for the death of his brother.
- Tunis-Djerba (Tunisia, France, Qatar) by Amel Guellaty which features Alyssa, 19, and Mehdi, 23, who use their imagination to escape their unpromising fate by entering a contest in the south of Tunisia that may allow them to flee away for real.
MENA: Feature Documentary – Production
- Bye Bye Tiberias (France, Belgium, Qatar) by Lina Soualem, about Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass, who left her small native village Deir Hanna in Galilee 30 years ago to follow her acting dream in France.
- Concrete Land (Jordan, Qatar) by Asmahan Bkerat, takes an intimate look at the lives of a nomadic Bedouin family in their struggle to hold on to its traditional life under the pressures of urbanisation.
- Suspended (Lebanon, Qatar) by Myriam El Hajj, recounts Lebanon’s past four years of turmoil through three characters from three different generations – each fighting to survive.
- The Day Of Wrath: Tales From Tripoli (Lebanon, Qatar) by Rania Rafei, a hybrid film mixing fiction and documentary to shed the light on five moments of uprising during different historical eras of the city of Tripoli.
MENA: Feature Narrative - Post-Production
- Soula (Algeria, France, Italy, Qatar) by Salah Issaad, the tale of a young single mother, who is rejected by her family in the name of honour; trying to survive, she finds herself caught up in a spiral of violence.
- Under The Fig Trees (Tunisia, Switzerland, France, Qatar) by Erige Sehiri is about Melek and her friends, who spend their summers working the fields to save up for their studies, future weddings, or to help their families.
Non-MENA: Feature Narrative – Post-Production
- Shame (Mexico, Qatar) by Miguel Salgado, follows Pedro, who is becoming an adult and is forced to hurt the things he loves. He watches how those affected by his actions suffer but his shame keeps him silent.
- Tropic Of Violence (France, Qatar) by Manuel Schapira is the first film shot in Mayotte, the 101st French department, which follows the destiny of slum orphans.
MENA: Feature Documentary - Post-Production
- Guardian Of The Worlds (France, Tunisia, Qatar) by Leïla Chaïbi is about Hassan who works in the Jellaz cemetery in Tunis. Though the only man at work, he is kept company by a tribe of compelling characters - thousands of spirits and one special woman.
- Octopus (Lebanon, Sweden, Qatar) by Karim Kassem, in which a filmmaker arrives to work on his new film and is faced with a colossal explosion that changes his life.
- Escape (France, Qatar) by Katia Jarjoura follows five young Syrian artists, all forced to flee their country, recounting their broken story and their personal revolution through their artistic practice.
- Omar Amiralay - Sorrow, Time and Silence (France, Syria, Qatar) by Hala Alabdalla which tells the story of Syrian director Omar Amiralay who dedicated his life to his country and to cinema through 40 years of political commitment and documentary filmmaking.
MENA: Feature Experimental or Essay - Post-Production
- The Tokyo Reel (Palestine, Belgium, Qatar) by Mohanad Yaqubi, is an open invitation to discover the restored digital scan of a lost 16 mm film reel found in the outskirts of Tokyo, which was made by a film collective that collaborated with several Japanese solidarity movements with Palestine.
Non-MENA: Feature Documentary - Post-Production
- Untitled Vinay Shukla Project (India, Qatar) by Vinay Shukla, a raw and timely film that offers an intimate portrait of the frontlines of truth in India.
- Zona Norte (Mexico, Qatar) by Javier Ávila which depicts the travails of a person who no longer belongs in any country and only carries the guilt of failure. The streets of Tijuana are the only home.
MENA: Short Narrative in Development – Qatar
- Civilization Of Equality (Qatar), an animation by Ibrahim Albuainain in which animals from different habitats sing in harmony calling for equality and peace.
- Mary (Qatar) by Abdulaziz Khashabi and Abdulla Al-Janahi, follows a 65-year-old housewife who lives in her house with her beloved 70-year-old husband, Robert, and their lazy cat
MENA: Short Narrative - Production
- Chained Prey (Egypt, Qatar) by Esmail Zalat, is about an Indian falcon, Raja, who lives a life of prestige at his falconer’s house in the Arabian Gulf and faces the threat of losing his secure lifestyle forever.
- Field Of View (Lebanon, France, Qatar) by Hussen Ibraheem, features a boy who defies his father’s views on the concept of manhood while on a bird hunting trip.
- Two Or Three Things I Don’t Know About Her (France, Algeria, Qatar) by Sabrina Idiri Chemloul, is about Lila, an 18-year-old girl living in Brest (France), and has recently decided to wear the veil, to the dismay of her family.
- Sandogi [My Treasure Chest] (Qatar) by Noor Alkuwari about reconnecting with your inner self to find your way.
MENA: Short Documentary - Production
- Ship Of Fools (Germany, Lebanon, Qatar) by Alia Haju, which is set amid the tumult of Beirut, when Alia meets the madman Abu Samra, and their shared insanity helps them make sense of Lebanon.
MENA: TV Series in Development
- Dar El Malika (Algeria, Qatar) by Lotfi Bouchouchi, which narrates the story of Malika and her daughters who find themselves almost destitute after the tragic death of her husband. They are forced to leave their house in the posh districts of Algiers for an old, ruined house in heart of the Casbah.
- Hajj Quichotte (Morocco, Qatar) by Hicham Lasri is about an old cart driver who is forced to use a three-wheeled engine, when authorities seize his horse. He discovers a modern world he doesn’t know and decides, after an accident, to run away to make up for his past.
- Under This Roof (Lebanon, UAE, Qatar) by Areej Mahmoud, is an anthology about the tireless fighting spirit of people living under the house rules of one of the most corrupt countries on earth, Lebanon. Each episode follows a different character as they fight for dignity and for survival.