AFTER A VERY COMPETITIVE SELECTION PROCESS, 16 POWERFUL DOCUMENTARY PROJECTS WERE SELECTED FOR THE 2019-2020 CLOSE-UP PROGRAM!
The projects were selected among 123 applications submitted to Close-Up from all across the Middle East and North Africa, including: Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey & United Arab Emirates.
We would like to thank all the filmmakers that apply, they all faced tremendous competition! Wishing all the filmmakers best of luck!
Jehan Selim Harney / Egypt
CROSSING is a portrait of an imam and an activist who seek to belong and live as themselves in Egypt… in a society that rejects their trans identity and families that are bent on killing them to erase the accompanying shame. Their journey intertwines with a rare story of Egypt after the Arab Spring, when medical transition was legalized only under the brief rule of Muslim Brotherhood to grant trans people equal rights. Transition is now being blocked by the supreme religious authority.
DAD, WHERE ARE YOU?
Zainab Al-Hariri / Iraq
After 40 years of silence, an Iraqi-British filmmaker returns home to understand how her father – a respected doctor, caring husband and loving father – chose to sacrifice everything to assassinate Saddam Hussein. Her quest tracks his journey from the village of his first clinic, to the hospital where he plotted the assassination and the prison of his torture and execution.
Othmane Balafrej / Morocco
This documentary follows Omar Balafrej, a Moroccan politician of the opposition known for his clear positions in favour of a parliamentary monarchy in a country stuck in a democratic transition that seems never to come to an end.
Shahrokh Bikaran & Ilyas Yourish / Afghanistan
Deep in the mountains of central Afghanistan, Fereshta and her parents strive for an unreachable wish.
LETTERS FROM MS. IRAN
Farahnaz Sharifi & Leyla Rouhi / Iran
Letters from Ms. Iran is the story of two Iranian women — one an immigrant to the US and the other living in Iran — who have never met and do not know if they ever will. But they become close friends through letters that they exchange daily. In these letters, by sharing images, sounds, and experiences of the two Irans that they inhabit, they tell an unofficial, personal history of the country that ends up spanning the past fifty years.
MOM YOU TRESPASSED
Ilham Bakir and Dilek Aydin / Turkey
Nazife Babayiğit is a woman in her eighties. She is sentenced to three years house arrest by Turkish courts for sending clothes to her son, a Kurdish guerilla, she has not seen for twenty years. Nazife, who is forbidden to go out of the house, goes out from her house to garden and she constantly violates the line of house arrest. The officers working for probation desk constantly call and warn her for violation. This situation causes a constant problem and discussion between the officials of the Ministry of Justice and the member of the family.
NENE: A GRANNY OR A TERRORIST?
Hale Gùzin Kizilaslan and Engin Volkan / Turkey
This film is an intimate portrayal of Nene, a 66-year-old sweet Turkish granny, who served 30 years of imprisonment for attempting to “overthrow the constitutional order.” According to the military junta that threw her behind the bars, Nene was a “murderous” political criminal. According to her, she is just a patriot socialist. Now, she is released. As if she stayed in a time capsule, for 30 years her ideals and goal haven’t changed a bit. But, life outside has changed a lot. One which she can no longer fit in. So, she decides to take the matters into her own hands. With the decision she takes for her new life outside, is this granny still a threat to the “order”
OUT OF PLACE
Mohammed Al-Majdalawi / Palestine-Sweden
“Out of Place” is a film about a small group of refugees, childhood friends from the Gaza Strip, now living in exile. The film explores the connection they have to the land of their birth, the search for home in their newly adopted countries and their quest for freedom in these foreign cultures where their ethnicity is all too often feared and discriminated against. The internal conflicts they face, about having left the land of their birth, is central to each character’s quest.
Samira El Mouzghibati / Morocco
The film will picture three generations of women, from my mother to my daughter, including my five sisters, drawing a line from Moroccan Rif to Brussels, from forced marriages to divorces, small rebellions to love marriages. Mixing family archives to intimate discussions about traditions, the film issues our doubts and contradictions, our fears and desires about how to build your own identity as a woman with a bicultural inheritance in Europe.
Yzza Slaoui / Morocco
ROTTEN STRAWBERRY is a documentary about the inhumane working conditions of female Moroccan seasonal workers during the strawberry harvest in Huelva, Southern Spain. It tells the first-hand story of six women who are currently undergoing this exploitation. Since 2011, these women are granted a 5-month working visa for Spain. Yet, it becomes clear that the promise of a better life is intangible. These women share their stories of mental and physical abuse and their struggle to keep calm given the constant threats they face.
Farnaz Jurabchian & Mohammadreza Jurabchian / Iran
Silent House tells the story of an Iranian family living in an historic big old house. Filmmakers, a sibling have been filming their own family for many years. The film poetically weaves together a rich tapestry of social and political themes by charting the changes experienced by one upper-middle class Iranian family following the 1979 Islamic Revolution through a highly personal narration. With the house itself as a silent witness, the family’s story becomes a mirror for society and the family’s house a metaphor for Iran. Everyday life of the characters through the mundane moments in the house evoke memories of past and present. Life affirming events like the wedding of a grandchild to the tragic death of two members of the house contrasts the stillness of a century old house.
Sarah Sellami / Morocco
From the myth of the patron saint of the acrobats, Sidi Ahmed ou Moussa, to the myth of my family, beyond the legend, the oblivion, the forgotten and the lies, The Acrobat is a documentary to discover, reveal and interrogate the riddle of hidden worlds and troubles times.
THE CAMERA DOESN’T CRY
Elsadig Mohamed & Abuzar Osman / Sudan
When the Sudanese revolution kicked off in Dec 2018, 32-year-old Sudanese filmmaker Alsadig did not hesitate to leave his work in Uganda and return back to Sudan to be a part of it. Abuzar, 30, an activist/artist based in Khartoum was already actively involved in the wide demonstrations in Khartoum. The two friends to-be met in front of the Military HQ in Khartoum during the sit-in which began on the historic occasion of the 6th of April 2019, when hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people took the streets of the capital Khartoum, chanting for Freedom, Peace and Justice. The immense crowd marched to the doorstep of the Sudanese armed forces demanding change and united in rejection of the 30-year long dictatorship under which Alsadig and Abuzar grew up and matured.
THE IMMORTAL, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF SALIM HALALI
Sara Nacer / Algeria
The Immortal, in the footsteps of Salim Halali plunges us into the tumultuous life of the mid-century Jewish-Arab music singer and artist Salim (Simon) Halali unveiling his incredible destiny. Jew and homosexual, Salim narrowly escapes in 1939, in Paris, deportation thanks to the rector of the Great Paris Mosque who falsified his identity documents. Already recognized in Paris, it is after the war that Salim’s career takes off throughout North Africa, leading him to open in Casablanca what will become the biggest cabaret in the world: Le Coq d’Or. The young Canadian-Algerian director, Sara Nacer, will pose her camera in Paris, Casablanca and Montreal, in the footsteps of this cosmopolitan, polyglot, humanistic, offbeat and hedonistic artist, who fascinates the public and left his mark where he has passed. Through intimate testimonies of his family and remarkable encounters, the veil is dissipated on the mystery surrounding the character he was, and makes us discover a time not so distant where around a common passion, the Jewish and Arab communities lived in perfect harmony.
Zvi Landsman / Israel
An exclusive look inside “conversion therapy”, that promises to make homosexuals straight. Lev and Ben attend conversion therapy, but as Lev searches for a bride, Ben starts having doubts. He begins an academic research, investigating if conversion is possible, or, as claimed by many, it is a deadly dangerous lie
The first workshop of the 2019/20 CLOSE-UP Co-Production training program concluded six days of intensive work in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
16 projects and their inspiring filmmakers from Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Turkey participated in the workshop.
They worked intensely with their mentors John Appel, Hans Robert Eisenhauer, Nino Kirtadze and Bruni Burres on the development of their written proposals, visual materials and trailers. Six Nordic Producers from Sweden, Finland and Denmark joined the workshop and participated as observers in order to examine possible Co-Productions with the selected Filmmakers.
On the first day of the workshop, the participants watched two feature length documentaries by the acclaimed French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert – “Every Little Thing” and ‘In the Land of the Deaf” followed by a fascinating Masterclass Philibert gave to both filmmakers and producers in which he spoke about his storytelling, cinematic approach and relationship with his characters.
Two Lectures on storytelling were given by Close-Up Partner & mentor John Appel, in his first lecture John defined the projects’ genre and presented examples from successful films with similar themes and styles. He spoke about the challenges and fruitful solutions found by the filmmakers of those films while Emphasizing the use of different and variable storytelling technics in documentaries. In his second lecture, John used his vast experience as a Filmmaker and showed excerpts from his films while discussing the concept of storytelling. He gave examples of finding the dramatic focal point of a film and how to structure the narrative and the layout of the story.
Two Lectures were given by Close-Up mentor Hans Robert Eisenhauer, in the first one he unfolded his personal outlook as a former commissioning editor and independent producer in the present on Co-Productions and the challenges directors and producers are facing during the filmmaking. He used examples from his own professional experience working with first time Filmmakers. In his second lecture, Hans Robert discussed the ways to write a comprehensive and strong written proposal and gave examples of projects’ he worked on and screened their trailers.
Throughout the workshop, the participants had both group and one-to-one tutorial sessions with their mentors. The Nordic Co-Producers observed these meetings and got to know both the filmmakers and their projects in depth. In addition, they had one-to-one meetings with each filmmaker to discuss what and how they could be involved with their projects as Producers.
On the fifth day, the participants attended a co-production case study by Moroccan director Hind Bensari and Danish producer Vibeke Vogel.
Hind & Vibeke shared the artistic and financial challenges they dealt with while working on the first feature length documentary directed by Hind Bensari. The film was developed at the Greenhouse program in 2014-2015 and won the Best Feature Documentary at 2018 Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival.
On the final day of the workshop, there was a pitching simulation session moderated by Executive Director Sigal Yehuda, the filmmakers presented their projects to the Close-Up team & mentors and received feedback on their projects’ content and footage, as well as concrete thoughts on how to further develop and improve their projects.
At the end of the session, the Close-Up team and mentors gave each filmmaker individual assignments. These assignments touch upon research, writing, filming and editing footage, which the filmmakers will need to complete in preparations for the second workshop, scheduled for March 2020.
The second workshop of the 2019/20 CLOSE-UP Co-Production training program materialized in an unexpected – but inspiring & productive way!
Due the Covid-19 crisis, the Close-Up Partners, Team & Mentors decided that in order to keep the safety of everyone, the Close-Up Second Workshop will be Virtual.
The Workshop took place last week over Skype. We scheduled Skype sessions between our 18 filmmakers and their mentors together with two prominent editing consultants, Joelle Alexis and Anne Fabini. They discussed with the filmmakers their project’s developments in regards to storytelling, dramaturgy, character’s development and cinematic vision based on edited materials & written proposals that our filmmakers have shared with our mentors & editors in advance. Each filmmaker had 2.5 hour’s session, it was intense, inspiring and constructive!
It ended last Friday 13th of March, successfully without any risk taken and particularly in most productive way!
In preparations for our Final Workshop & Pitching Forum scheduled for June 2020, the mentor gave each filmmaker specific assignments in regards to the editing materials & the development of the written proposal which the filmmakers will deliver in the next coming weeks.
In addition, next week, our MENA filmmakers will be having one-on-one Skype meetings with our Nordic Producers in order to discuss further Co-Production possibilities.
We were all saddened we couldn’t meet all in Izmir, but as the Corona crisis continues to grow all over the world, we are happy we maintained the safety of everyone at Close-Up.
We’re looking forward for our final workshop & pitching forum!