We are thrilled to announce the selection of 13 projects from Southwest Asia and North Africa for the upcoming 2023-2024 Close Up program, out of a total of 121 applications received from across the region!
The film delves into the journey of my uncle, a political prisoner, whose arrest shook the very foundation of our family. He found liberation from the confines of incarceration through writing heartfelt letters. Meanwhile, my father sought solace in the universe of training goldfinches, instilling in it the art of singing. This pursuit served as a sanctuary, allowing him to momentarily escape the brutal reality. My uncle never wanted to share details about what happened. Was my dad’s immersion into the world of birds an attempt to escape harsh reality, or was it his way of confronting it head-on?
Berliner follows Nana, a middle-aged immigrant woman from Georgia who works as an interpreter for the Berlin law enforcement authority and a refugee facility. She translates testimonies of criminal suspects from Post-Soviet countries and aids newly arrived refugees. Set in the cosmopolitan city of Berlin against an ongoing political backdrop, the film delves into the life of Nana—a translator woman who serves as both a mediator and an information receiver, engaged in a permanent process of translation. She guides us through the closed off institutions and invites us to hear different stories through translations. We are becoming observers of how she receives, processes, and translates information, both literally and metaphorically. Nana’s life serves as a continuous projection of the information she absorbs. Through her story, the film aims to unravel the significance of translations and how these linguistic bridges impact her life and others around her.
Girls living in a backward region of Turkey are introduced to rugby, a sport they have never heard of before, thanks to a teacher who comes to their school. They’ve learned to play rugby with a burst basketball ball. But there were barriers for the girls: their families, cultural codes, and society. At first, this sport was not accepted by the family. Their introduction to sports allowed them to discover new worlds, and they managed to overcome the barriers in time. The Burst Ball is a project about women’s struggles that looks like a story focused on sports.
The director, a 40-year old woman, divorced, with a 10 year old son, observes the streets of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and documents the reality in her city and her personal life. The fusion of city life and her personal life raises existential questions about femininity, humanity, and contemporary Israeli society. The private and public spheres overlap, and the private is always political. “City” is caught between Tel Aviv (Israel) and Jaffa (Palestine), night and day, sea and sky, war and escapism, West and East, light and darkness.
Portrait of an unknown and politically active photographer during the 1970s in the Middle East, who was exiled. His life and unseen photographs of the revolution which was founded in a basement after 40 years and footage of his family from the past till now, shape the narrative which depicts the impacts of political events on people’s lives.
Amidst the rugged beauty of a secluded mountain village in Azerbaijan, 14-year-old Rose dreams of becoming a football player and painting of her sports idols. Rose struggles with conservative family values, economic difficulties and the impending threat of her recently released uncle, who attacks her family. Family’s livelihood depends on the small land, but the flood approaches the village every year and destroys the fields.
Thirteen years after losing her husband to a genocidal bomb blast, Sughra Reza decides to embark on a pilgrimage to Iran, Iraq, and Syria, that she believes will bring peace to her and most importantly, her husband’s spirit. For the first time in her life, she steps outside the militarized ghetto that is the only home she knows. She carries with her a diary she shared with her husband when they were an engaged couple. It is a memento that has remained unopened since then. Sughra is followed by her son Ali Haider, who survived the same blast that left her widow, and his camera, as he too tries to make peace with his trauma.
My Mothers’ Tale follows Kurdish filmmaker Mizgin Arslan who embarks on a journey fueled by a haunting photograph capturing the last three generations of women in her family. Marked by her grandmother’s tragic passing and her father’s incarceration and torture during the 1983 Turkish coup, Mizgin’s mother makes a heart-wrenching decision to leave her behind for a perilous journey to Syria in search of her father. Supported by historical archive and animation, this film examines the intricate dynamics of their mother-daughter relationship as they confront their shared history and the unspoken pain that has long lingered between them.
The film follows filmmaker, Zaina Erhaim as she reconnects with four remarkable women she filmed during the conflict in Syria. Struggling to come to terms with the trauma, oppression and misogyny she faced, Zaina bears witness to their tales of survival and sacrifice in their new homes across the globe. As Zaina and her companions navigate the challenges of their new lives as refugees, the film explores the vital importance of sisterhood in the journey towards healing. Featuring personal storytelling and first-person footage, the film is a tribute to the resilience of women who refuse to be silenced.
The fear of the sea urges the director Lala to embark on a journey around the familiar shores of the Caspian Sea, which is the biggest lake in the world and the locus of first industrial oil production. In the next 30 years, global warming will result in a drastic decrease of the levels of the Caspian. STRANGE SEA captures a fleeting moment in history and the lives of people, a memory of the space that can be gone. It is an emotionally driven experimental film that takes the viewer into the unknown waters and different worlds of the sea.
Set in turbulent Turkey after historic elections, Your Honour follows Efruz, a pioneering trans student completing her law degree. Faced with challenging an unjust system or forging her own path, Efruz’s journey unfolds amidst the country’s changing landscape. Navigating campus life, exams, and her role in the trans community, she confronts tragic losses to transphobic violence and battles with depression. Yet, within her community’s embrace, Efruz discovers solace. With each person, case, and lesson, Efruz’s understanding of justice evolves, mirroring the societal change in a nation on the brink. Guided by an imaginary judge, the film blends hybrid, re-imagined courtroom scenes with flashbacks, capturing her transformative journey and exploring themes of personal growth, solidarity, and different forms of justice.