We had a wonderfully busy, intensive, and energizing week between 09-16 December 2022 in Amman, Jordan as part of the Close Up First Workshop. It was great to reunite as Close Up Founding Partners, Mentors and Team after three years of online workshops since the beginning of the pandemic. We were so happy to meet our filmmakers in person and start our fruitful journey together!
We feel honoured and privileged to be supporting such a talented, courageous and passionate group of emerging filmmakers from Southwest Asia and North Africa. This year’s 17 selected projects hail from as diverse countries as Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Israel, Jordan/Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey.
Alongside providing the much-needed professional support and infrastructure to filmmakers from our region, as Close Up we are equally committed to cultivating a community of independent documentary filmmakers coming from diverse backgrounds. It was a very moving and inspirational week for all of us as we witnessed the extraordinary hard work of all our filmmakers who worked intensely with their mentors to develop their projects while supporting one another and exchanging ideas!
As part of the workshop program, filmmakers attended a number of lectures, talks and case study sessions.
We started the workshop program with a powerful lecture by our mentor and founding partner John Appel on the subject of ‘Themes & Styles in Documentaries’. The discussion evolved around how to structure the narrative of films and John highlighted the use of different storytelling approaches in documentaries, which was an essential starting point for the whole workshop.
In addition, for the first time this year, we organised a Case Study session with our alumni filmmakers Asmahan Bkerat and Ban Maraqa from Palestine/Jordan who were part of the Close Up 2021-2022 program. Moderated by our very dearest mentor Gitte Hansen, Asmahan and Ban shared their insights and screened their latest work-in-progress from their project Concrete Land. The filmmakers had a very inspiring group conversation and reflected on the artistic, creative, and ethical choices that each filmmaker needs to make when making their films and telling the stories of their communities.
Our workshop program continued with a screening of the multi-awarded film Kabul, City in the Wind (2018) by Aboozar Amini from Afghanistan. During the conversation, which was moderated by our Executive Director Sigal Yehuda, Aboozar spoke about his journey of becoming a filmmaker and the complexities of being an Afghan artist in Europe. He mentioned the responsibility he feels as an artist towards the representation of the Hazara community and Afghanistan in international cinema. We also discussed his motivation to make ‘Kabul, City in the Wind’ and the visual concept he had for the film. It was very inspiring to hear from Aboozar about how he wanted to create a cinematic experience of his childhood memories from his city Kabul and the kind of journey the film went through over the years from being an initial idea on paper to becoming this extraordinary, nuanced, multi-layered, and cinematic film.
In addition to group lectures, our amazing team of mentors – Bruni Burres, John Appel, Gitte Hansen and Nino Kirtadze – worked closely with their group of filmmakers to reconstruct the narrative and visual approach of each project. After the filmmakers shared with the group their intentions and how they would like to further develop their films, they received group and one-on-one consultancy sessions from the mentors. During these sessions, the filmmakers further analysed the film’s themes, story, style, and cinematic form. They worked on selections of scenes from their material and started developing an outline for the script.
In the final two days of the workshop, all 17 filmmakers presented their work and progress to the entire group and were given feedback and comments by mentors, our Executive Director Sigal Yehuda, our Founding Partner Vincent Melilli, and guest filmmaker Aboozar Amini. Filmmakers shared their thoughts on story, character development, cinematic vision and storytelling approaches. Everyone worked very hard to break through the artistic challenges and we were very impressed by the originality and creativity showcased in each project. At the last day of the workshop, each filmmaker received concrete assignments to continue writing their proposals and editing their work-in-progress material. They will continue to work on their materials during January and February and will receive continued feedback and support from their mentors to make progress with their projects. We are very excited to meet again for our Second Close Up Workshop which will take place online between 8-14 March 2023.
We were very energised to be surrounded by this group of nuanced and gifted emerging filmmakers that push the independent cinema in Southwest Asia and North Africa forward with such dedication, commitment and creativity! To our filmmakers, from everyone at Close Up, it is an honor to be on this journey with you.
The Second Workshop took place online between March 8-14th and we had a wonderful time re-connecting, exchanging and having inspiring dialogues! Close Up filmmakers have spent 7 intense and highly productive and challenging days full of learning and creative work!
The week started with 2 days of editing consultancy sessions with four professional editors: Phil Jandaly, Audrey Maurion, Giles Gardner and Joelle Alexis. All filmmakers had one-on-one sessions with the editors to discuss their project’s developments in regards to storytelling, dramaturgy, character’s development and cinematic vision. The filmmakers shared edited work-in-progress materials & written proposals with our mentors & editors in advance to prepare for the meetings and had wonderfully productive sessions.
In parallel to these meetings, the filmmakers had the great opportunity to have one-on-one meetings on Storytelling and Financial Strategies with our dear colleague and friend Alex Szalat. Alex gave concrete feedback on each project and discussed with them the project’s story and opportunities available in the international documentary market. In addition, he advised about strong selling points and who could support their projects.
These meetings were also supported by a lecture given by our dear mentor Gitte Hansen, where we discussed in-depth financial strategies and the international documentary market.
After working intensely all week on their materials, the filmmakers presented their projects in front of the entire group. They shared sections from their visual materials and received feedback from Close Up mentors Bruni Burres, John Appel, Gitte Hansen and Nino Kirtadze, and Close Up Founder & Executive Director Sigal Yehuda as well as fellow participating filmmakers on how to improve their storytelling and projects in general.
As we come to an end of the Second Workshop, we are looking ahead and starting our preparations with full force for our Final Workshop & Pitching Forum!
In the following months, filmmakers will continue their work to prepare a full co-production package complete with a teaser and written proposals which will be presented at Close Up Pitching Forum in June 2023. They will continue to have their individual consultancy sessions with Close Up mentors throughout the months of April and May and filmmakers will meet with editors once again to receive their feedback specifically on teasers.
We had a wonderfully busy, energising and inspiring week between 04-11 June 2023 in Tbilisi, Georgia as part of the Close Up Third Workshop and Pitching Forum!
We feel honoured and privileged to be supporting such a talented, courageous and passionate group of emerging filmmakers from Southwest Asia and North Africa. This year, we presented 15 unique and powerful projects that hailed from as diverse countries as Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, Jordan/Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey.
We started our workshop with an intensive training session on pitching facilitated by the special expert Lucinda Broadbent from the UK. For the first days of the workshop, alongside meetings with Lucinda, filmmakers also had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with all four Close Up mentors – Bruni Burres, John Appel, Gitte Hansen and Nino Kirtadze – under the framework of an Open Lab and discussed the next steps for their projects.
On 9th June, we had our Close Up Pitching Forum and each filmmaker presented their project in front of the panel members and entire group after working intensely on developing their projects since our first workshop in December 2022! Our Pitching Forum was moderated by our dearest friend and colleague Margje de Koning, the Artistic Director of Movies that Matter Film Festival.
All invited 12 panel members from highly prestigious international cinema foundations, festivals, and broadcasters shared valuable comments and feedback on the projects. We were so honoured to welcome such a wonderful group of panelists in Tbilisi. This year’s invited commissioning editors and panel members included:
Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen from IDFA Forum (The Netherlands), Alex Szalat from Docs Up Fund (France), Anne Grolleron from ARTE TV (France), Basil Tsiokos from Sundance Film Festival (USA), Claudia Bucher from ARTE G.E.I.E (France), Jane Ray from The Whickers (UK), Karen Sloe Goodman from Silver Sun Foundation (USA), Laura Longobardi from International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (Switzerland), Lianne Llewellyn from International Emerging Film Talent Organization (IEFTA, (Monaco), Lucie Kon from BBC Storyville (UK), Mette Hoffman Meyer from the WHY Foundation (Denmark), Sophie Chegaray from France TV (France).
After the pitching presentations, the filmmakers had the opportunity to individually meet all panelists in round table meetings. These meetings allowed the filmmakers to receive more detailed questions and engage in an in-depth conversation on their projects.
On 10th June, we ended our Third Workshop & Pitching Forum with our Award Ceremony and each filmmaker received the Close Up Diploma for successfully completing the program and for the incredible progress they have achieved in the past 7-months since the beginning of the Close Up program in December 2022!
The Close Up project that received the extraordinary Whickers Bursary worth of £3,000 is One of Those Creatures directed by the talented filmmaker Ali Ozkul from Turkey!
Director Areeb Zuaiter from Jordan/Palestine won the prestigious Docs Up Fund award with her astonishing project Yalla Parkour! The director received the development grant of €1,500 EUR and consultancy services!
A brand new documentary funding award for Close Up filmmakers was created by the International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA) in partnership with Close Up! The Director of the Global Film Expression Initiative and IEFTA Partnership Lianne Llewellyn granted the IEFTA Award to Depot-Vente directed by the talented Cherine Karam from Lebanon! The project received the cash prize of €1,000 EUR!
After the wonderful week we had in Tbilisi, Georgia for our Third Workshop & Pitching Forum, we had our Online Pitching Forum on June 27 & 28!
We invited panel members from highly prestigious international cinema foundations, markets, festivals, broadcasters as well as producers to attend our Online Pitching Forum. Many of Close Up partners including Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, Blue Ice Docs, MEDIMED, Catapult Film Fund, Chicken & Egg, Jacob Burns Film Center, Points North Institute, IDA, ARTE SWR, ZDF/ARTE and The Guardian, amongst others joined us for the online pitching sessions and met filmmakers virtually!
After the completion of our Online Pitching Forum, we announced the winners of the MEDIMED Award, Points North Award, Silver Sun Residency Fellowship Award and Jacob Burns Film Center Residency Fellowship Award!
As part of our ongoing collaboration with MEDIMED: The EuroMed Docs Market, each year one Close Up project is selected by our dear colleague and friend Sergi Dolade to participate at the prestigious MEDIMED market. This year, this award was granted to TRASH CEMETERY, directed by Firas Rebiai and produced by Dhia Rebiai from Tunisia as a result of the filmmakers’ successful pitch at the Close Up Online Pitching Forum! The MEDIMED AWARD consists of covering the filmmaker’s travel expenses, accommodation, accreditation and offers a pitching slot at the prestigious MEDIMED Pitching Forum!
We were also excited to announce the winners of the new POINTS NORTH AWARD as part of the new partnership we established with the wonderful Points North Institute in Camden, USA! OUR SEEDS directed by Erhan Arik and produced by Meryem Yavuz from Turkey are selected for this wonderful award and are invited to participate in Points North Virtual Industry Meetings taking place on September 26-27!
At Close Up, we always strive to create additional crucial opportunities for Close Up filmmakers and as a result we provide a number of highly prestigious awards at Close Up Pitching Forum each year. We are delighted to be collaborating with such strong international organizations that are deeply dedicated to supporting and nurturing original and innovative documentary cinema from Southwest Asia and North Africa. These awards and opportunities highlight our shared commitment to encouraging emerging filmmakers from our region to create outstanding films, as there continues to be a great need and urgency for support for our community of filmmakers.
Close Up Founding Partners, Mentors & Team would like to use this opportunity to deeply thank our committed and generous funders, for enabling us to continue this fantastic program. As an international non-profit cultural organisation, we rely on our committed supporters who share our values and believe in our vision with great passion and enthusiasm. We truly appreciate our dedicated donors for their precious support!
First of all, we would like to deeply thank our significant long-time supporter, a family foundation based in NY, who has supported us for a decade and prefers to be anonymous. We truly appreciate their commitment and uncompromising support, none of this would be possible without you!
We would like to deeply thank Lisa Chanoff, Karen Sloe Goodman & Rusty Goodman at Silver Sun Foundation, Barbara & Eric Dobkin, Neil Tabatznik and Robin Smith at Blue-Ice Docs, the Nordic Culture Fund, German Federal Foreign Office, Pamela Jones & Craig Russel – Goldman Sachs, International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA), Kimelman Family Foundation, Richard & Jennifer Berman, Larry Boltansky and Sherri Wolf for their valuable support!
Close Up Founding Partners, Mentors & Team