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Captains of Zaatari review – endearing refugee-camp football doc

Ali El Arabi keeps his teenage subjects up close in this wonderfully empathetic film that humanises displaced people

The opening of Ali El Arabi’s documentary is achingly evocative in its quotidian simplicity. Under the last light of the day, a football is kicked into the air. As the camera follows the spinning ball, the comforting ordinariness is ruptured by the sight of barbed wires and housing barracks. Here is a slice of life in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, the world’s largest for Syrian refugees, and a story that follows the friendship of football-mad Fawzi and Mahmoud from their teenage years to early adulthood.

With tender compassion, the film offers gently nuanced insight into the lives of Syrian refugees. It is peppered with endearing conversations between the teenaged boys, who talk of not only romantic crushes but also their dreams of becoming professional athletes. Captains of Zaatari is also attentive to private heartbreak,
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

‘Captains Of Zaatari’ scoops top prize at Doha’s Ajyal Film Festival

‘Captains Of Zaatari’ scoops top prize at Doha’s Ajyal Film Festival
The ninth edition of Doha Film Institute’s youth and family-focused festival ran November 7-13.

Egyptian director Ali El Arabi’s coming-of-age documentary Captains Of Zaatari has won the top prize at the ninth edition of Doha Film Institute’s Ayjal Film Festival which took place in Qatar from November 7-13.

Captains Of Zaatari won the best feature film award in the Hilal category, chosen by a jury aged 13 to 17 years. It follows two young Syrian refugees living in a camp in Jordan as they pursue their dreams to become professional soccer players.

In a surprise announcement, it was revealed the film’s young subjects,
See full article at ScreenDaily »

Iefta Chief Advocates Back to Basics Approach for Independent Film Distribution

  • Variety
Iefta Chief Advocates Back to Basics Approach for Independent Film Distribution
Marco Orsini, president of the not-for-profit International Emerging Film Talent Association (Iefta), is firmly in favor of a back to basics distribution approach for independent films from the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, the Horn of Africa and some parts of South Asia.

Orsini says that quality independent films would most likely be selected at some high-end film festivals and attract sales agents, but Covid-19 shut down many of the potential theatrical markets for these films. Many went straight to VOD platforms instead.

“I think a lot of the VOD platforms have begun to put a sting into how sales agents work, they become diminished,” Orsini told Variety in an interview conducted at the recent El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt. “But at the same time, filmmakers, I feel, have been brainwashed to believe that the golden carrot is Netflix.”

“I think that would be a great end game…
See full article at Variety »

Doc Corner: Andrea Arnold's 'Cow' and more at Hot Spring Documentary Film Festival

Doc Corner: Andrea Arnold's 'Cow' and more at Hot Spring Documentary Film Festival
By Glenn Dunks

I recently ‘visited’ Arkansas of all places to sit on a jury for America’s longest-running documentary film festival. I got to judge on the 2021 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival’s international jury with Andria Wilson Mirza and Jesse Knight and the three of us awarded the International Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize (phew!) to Andrea Arnold’s Cow with an honourable mention to Ali El Arabi’s Captains of Zataari. The U.S. Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize went to Angelo Madsen Minax's excellent North by Current, which we looked at earlier in the year.

So for this week’s column I wanted to look at a selection of the titles from songstresses in Cuba, professional wrestlers in Mexico and, yup, that damn cow.
See full article at FilmExperience »

‘The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic’ wins top prizes at Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival

‘The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic’ wins top prizes at Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival
In other prizes Mounia Akl’s Costa Brava, Lebanon clinches Fipresci prize and inaugural Green Award.

Finnish director Teemu Nikki’s dark comedy-drama The Blind Man Who Did Not Want To See Titanic scooped the El Gouna Film Festival’s $50,000 Golden Star award for best narrative film over the weekend.

Its star Petri Poikolainen also won best actor for his performance as a blind man who ventures out of his small apartment and onto the streets to travel by train to spend time with his long-distance girlfriend.

The film world premiered in Venice’s new Horizon Extras where it won the audience award.
See full article at ScreenDaily »

‘The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic’ Wins Top Awards at El Gouna Film Festival

  • Variety
‘The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic’ Wins Top Awards at El Gouna Film Festival
Teemu Nikki’s Venice and Antalya winner “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic” won the Golden star for best film at the 5th El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt, which wrapped Friday. The award carries a cash prize of $50,000.

The film’s lead Petri Poikolainen won best actor, while Maya Vanderbeque, the young star of “Playground,” won best actress.

Egyptian filmmaker Omar El Zohairy’s Cannes winner “Feathers,” which also won the Variety award at El Gouna earlier, won best Arab narrative film.

Directors Aleksey Chupov and Natasha Merkulova’s “Captain Volkonogov Escaped” won the Netpac award and bronze in the narrative category.

Michel Franco’s “Sundown” won silver in the narrative competition, while Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s “Once Upon a Time in Calcutta” scored a special mention from Netpac.

Mounia Akl’s “Costa Brava, Lebanon” won the Fipresci award and the Green Star award for tackling environmental issues.
See full article at Variety »

Iefta Brings ‘Cinema of Humanity’ to Egypt’s El Gouna Film Fest

Iefta Brings ‘Cinema of Humanity’ to Egypt’s El Gouna Film Fest
The Intl. Emerging Film Talent Assn. (Iefta) returns to El Gouna, Egypt, with two ongoing partnerships at the fifth film festival, running Oct. 14-22.

For the fifth year, Iefta and its Global Film Expression Mentorship program will participate in the CineGouna Platform, which enables Arab film directors and producers with projects in development or films in post-production to find creative and financial support.

And for the third year in El Gouna (after two years in Cannes), Iefta and the U.N. High Commission for Refugees are presenting Refugee Voices in Film. This year’s program explores how filmmakers use different film formats, including narrative, documentary and animation, to depict stories of refugees around the globe.

The fest at the Egyptian resort town of El Gouna, on the Red Sea, has a longtime mandate of “cinema for humanity,” and the programs and films selected reflect this.

Established in 2006, Iefta has driven
See full article at Variety »

Kristen Stewart’s ‘Spencer’ to Close Austin Film Festival, ‘The Humans’ Added to Lineup (Exclusive)

Kristen Stewart’s ‘Spencer’ to Close Austin Film Festival, ‘The Humans’ Added to Lineup (Exclusive)
The Austin Film Festival has announced new additions to its 2021 lineup, including the Kristen Stewart-starring “Spencer” and Stephen Karam’s “The Humans.” The festival will take place in Austin, Texas and online from Oct. 21-28.

Spencer” will be the festival’s closing night piece. Directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Steven Knight, the biopic follows Princess Diana (Stewart) as she processes her decision to end her marriage to Prince Charles.

As the culmination of Aff’s writers’ conference, the centerpiece film will be “The Humans,” written and directed by Karam and adapted from his Pulitzer-winning play of the same name. “The Humans” takes place on Thanksgiving as a family comes together despite hidden secrets, past trauma and nightmares coming to life. Beanie Feldstein, Amy Schumer, Steven Yeun, Richard Jenkins, Jayne Houdyshell and June Squibb star.

The inaugural spotlight film slot will showcase the North American premiere of “Down With the King,
See full article at Variety »

‘Captains of Zaatari’ Director Ali El Arabi Set For New Soccer Doc About 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar (Exclusive)

‘Captains of Zaatari’ Director Ali El Arabi Set For New Soccer Doc About 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar (Exclusive)
Egyptian director and producer Ali El Arabi, who made a splash at virtual Sundance with doc “Captains of Zaatari,” about the soccer dreams of young Syrian refugees, is shooting another soccer-related project, this one centered on fan fever in the leadup to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

“Ashish’s Journey” (working title), El Arabi’s new high-profile doc, will chronicle the true tale of a young Indian (pictured in this exclusive first look image) who is a fervent soccer fan and — realizing that he can’t afford travel and ticket costs to attend 2022 World Cup, where he wants to meet a football icon of his — decides to apply for a job as a stadium worker in Qatar.

“We’ve been living with Ashish for a year now and will continue shooting until after the World Cup in 2022,” the director said. “What we hope to accomplish and are exploring is
See full article at Variety »

Sundance Docs ‘Captains of Zaatari,’ ‘Sabaya’ Secure Raft of Global Sales From Dogwoof (Exclusive)

Sundance Docs ‘Captains of Zaatari,’ ‘Sabaya’ Secure Raft of Global Sales From Dogwoof (Exclusive)
Sundance title “Captains of Zaatari” has sold into Utopia for the U.S., where it will get a theatrical release this fall.

London-based sales agent Dogwoof secured the movie with Robert Schwartzman and Cole Harper’s fledgling distributor Utopia, which is planning a day-and-date release in cinemas on Nov. 19 in New York and Los Angeles, alongside a premiere on Apple TV and Altavod.

Directed and produced by Ali El Arabi from Egypt, the film follows two best friends, Mahmoud and Fawzi, living in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, who dream of becoming professional soccer players. Despite being confined under challenging conditions, they remain hopeful and practice day in and day out. When a world-renowned sports academy visits, both have a chance to turn their dream into a reality.

The film, which world premiered in competition at Sundance in January, has also sold into Sherry Media (Canada), Trigon (Switzerland) and
See full article at Variety »

Sundance Review: Captains of Zaatari Tells a Rousing Underdog Story, But Sugarcoats Complex Realities

Sundance Review: Captains of Zaatari Tells a Rousing Underdog Story, But Sugarcoats Complex Realities
Captains of Zaatari opens on a note of beauty, with exceedingly pretty shots of best friends Mahmoud and Fawzi kicking up dust as they bounce a soccer ball back and forth in the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan.

Displaced with 80,000 other Syrians (more than half of whom are children) to this sprawling makeshift city, both teens dream of escaping the camp and playing professional soccer. A distant goal to Mahmoud and Fawzi, and one viewed as a pipe dream by Fawzi’s patient but put-upon family, this possibility suddenly grows excitingly close when a Qatari sports academy scouts the camp and recruits Mahmoud for training. Due to what the documentary presents as an age-related technicality, Fawzi is left behind, though coaches shortly thereafter allow him to join. From there, Captains of Zaatari shifts from a more interesting, slice-of-life look at the Za’atari refugee camp and its communities into an overtly inspirational sports doc,
See full article at The Film Stage »

“The Message of the Film Continued to Evolve”: Editor Menna El Shishini on Captains of Zaatari

“The Message of the Film Continued to Evolve”: Editor Menna El Shishini on Captains of Zaatari
In his feature debut, Captains of Zaatari, Ali El Arabi turns his eye on the teenagers living in the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp. Unafraid to dream despite their bleak surroundings, Fawzi and Mahmoud hope to escape Zaatari and enter the world of professional soccer. El Shishini tells us of his unique perspective as editor and assistant director, and how he crafte a narrative from hundreds of hours of footage. Filmmaker: How and why did you wind up being the editor of your film? What were the factors and attributes that led to your being hired for this job? El Shishini: […]

The post "The Message of the Film Continued to Evolve": Editor Menna El Shishini on Captains of Zaatari first appeared on Filmmaker Magazine.
See full article at Filmmaker Magazine »

“The Message of the Film Continued to Evolve”: Editor Menna El Shishini on Captains of Zaatari

“The Message of the Film Continued to Evolve”: Editor Menna El Shishini on Captains of Zaatari
In his feature debut, Captains of Zaatari, Ali El Arabi turns his eye on the teenagers living in the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp. Unafraid to dream despite their bleak surroundings, Fawzi and Mahmoud hope to escape Zaatari and enter the world of professional soccer. El Shishini tells us of his unique perspective as editor and assistant director, and how he crafte a narrative from hundreds of hours of footage. Filmmaker: How and why did you wind up being the editor of your film? What were the factors and attributes that led to your being hired for this job? El Shishini: […]

The post "The Message of the Film Continued to Evolve": Editor Menna El Shishini on Captains of Zaatari first appeared on Filmmaker Magazine.
See full article at Filmmaker Magazine_Director Interviews »

“Dreams Are Never Bound or Restricted by Austere Conditions”: Dp Mahmoud Bashir on Captains of Zaatari

“Dreams Are Never Bound or Restricted by Austere Conditions”: Dp Mahmoud Bashir on Captains of Zaatari
In his feature debut, Captains of Zaatari, Ali El Arabi turns his eye on the teenagers living in the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp. Unafraid to dream despite their bleak surroundings, Fawzi and Mahmoud hope to escape Zaatari and enter the world of professional soccer. Dp Mahmoud Bashir discusses becoming friends with the boys at the center of the film and the importance of natural lighting. Filmmaker: How and why did you wind up being the cinematographer of your film? What were the factors and attributes that led to your being hired for this job? Bashir: I did shoot more than […]

The post "Dreams Are Never Bound or Restricted by Austere Conditions": Dp Mahmoud Bashir on Captains of Zaatari first appeared on Filmmaker Magazine.
See full article at Filmmaker Magazine »

“Dreams Are Never Bound or Restricted by Austere Conditions”: Dp Mahmoud Bashir on Captains of Zaatari

“Dreams Are Never Bound or Restricted by Austere Conditions”: Dp Mahmoud Bashir on Captains of Zaatari
In his feature debut, Captains of Zaatari, Ali El Arabi turns his eye on the teenagers living in the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp. Unafraid to dream despite their bleak surroundings, Fawzi and Mahmoud hope to escape Zaatari and enter the world of professional soccer. Dp Mahmoud Bashir discusses becoming friends with the boys at the center of the film and the importance of natural lighting. Filmmaker: How and why did you wind up being the cinematographer of your film? What were the factors and attributes that led to your being hired for this job? Bashir: I did shoot more than […]

The post "Dreams Are Never Bound or Restricted by Austere Conditions": Dp Mahmoud Bashir on Captains of Zaatari first appeared on Filmmaker Magazine.
See full article at Filmmaker Magazine_Director Interviews »

‘Captains of Zaatari’ blends filmmaking styles to tell inspiring refugee story [Sundance Studio]

‘Captains of Zaatari’ blends filmmaking styles to tell inspiring refugee story [Sundance Studio]
For his directing debut, Ali El Arabi wanted to make sure all types of audiences were engaged by his documentary on two Syrian refugees with dreams of playing professional soccer.

“I wanted the movie to be appealing to the people who don’t like documentaries,” El Arabi tells Gold Derby through an interpreter in a new interview from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “When it comes to dry documentaries, status-quo kind of thing — I didn’t want that. I wanted to give more life to that movie. It appeals to both, documentary loves and feature lovers.”

Set to compete in the World Cinema Documentary competition at Sundance, “Captains of Zaatari” follows two teenagers, Fawzi and Mahmoud, as they play soccer and imagine a life outside the Zaatari refugee camp in Northern Jordan, the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world.

See Our full coverage of Sundance 2021

“These boys stood out in the crowd,
See full article at Gold Derby »

‘Captains of Zaatari’ Review: Heartfelt, Gorgeously Photographed Doc Offers Unique Look Into Syrian Crisis

‘Captains of Zaatari’ Review: Heartfelt, Gorgeously Photographed Doc Offers Unique Look Into Syrian Crisis
Hope is in the DNA of competitive sports. Comes with it a shot at victory, a rush of optimism for what might follow. The sensation only multiplies through unity — not just with one’s team, but also fans cheering on. Through his profoundly humanistic nonfiction feature debut “Captains of Zaatari,” a moving tale of two Syrian teenagers with a deep love for soccer, filmmaker Ali El Arabi captures what that kind of hope can mean to those with bleakly limited options. He does so with stunning cinematic artistry and precision, honoring the lives he portrays with authenticity and respect.

In the oblique footsteps of Jafar Panahi’s masterful “Offsite” and Adam Sobel’s Sundance-hailing documentary “The Workers Cup,” El Arabi demonstrates an acute understanding of the buoyancy that surrounds soccer, the kind of promise it symbolizes to many around the globe, as well as the set of intricate skills required by the game.
See full article at Variety »

Gifted Young Soccer Players Hope For Ticket Out Of Refugee Camp In ‘Captains Of Zaatari’ – Sundance Studio

Gifted Young Soccer Players Hope For Ticket Out Of Refugee Camp In ‘Captains Of Zaatari’ – Sundance Studio
The Zaatari refugee camp in Northern Jordan, home to the largest number of Syrian refugees in the world, sits on a rocky patch of soil, surrounded by barbed wire.

When filmmaker Ali El Arabi traveled there to do some reportage for the Un and the Arab League, he found people poor in opportunities, yet “very rich” in one respect—they hadn’t given up on their dreams.

Two of those dreamers, teenagers Fawzi and Mahmoud, would become the stars of his documentary Captains of Zaatari, premiering at Sundance in World Cinema Documentary Competition. The boys were the standout players on a refugee soccer team, and hoped the sport would be their ticket out of the camp.

“From the first time I met Fawzi he gave me a sentence that is engraved [in my mind],” El Arabi recalled during an appearance in Deadline’s virtual Sundance Studio. “He told me, ‘The only time I
See full article at Deadline »

‘Captains of Zaatari’ Director Ali El Arabi on Soccer as Ticket to a Future For Syrian Refugee Teens

‘Captains of Zaatari’ Director Ali El Arabi on Soccer as Ticket to a Future For Syrian Refugee Teens
It took Egyptian director and producer Ali El Arabi six years to shoot “Captains of Zaatari,” which world premieres in the Sundance world doc competition on Jan. 31. He shot it mostly on the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. which hosts some 80,000 Syrians forced to flee the civil war in Syria, more than half of which are children. At the camp, the director focused on the lives of two talented teens, Mahmoud and Fawzi, who are best friends and dream of becoming professional soccer players. They get a shot at it thanks to a Doha-based sports academy called Aspire. El Arabi spoke from Cairo to Variety about how he gained deep access to the team captains’ lives and, by extension, to a potent depiction of the redemptive power of soccer, friendship and “the right that refugees have to connect with the world.” The excerpted conversation follows.

What is most striking about the doc is the intimacy.
See full article at Variety »

14 Buzziest Sundance Movies for Sale in 2021, From Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’ to Rebecca Hall’s ‘Passing’ (Photos)

14 Buzziest Sundance Movies for Sale in 2021, From Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’ to Rebecca Hall’s ‘Passing’ (Photos)
This year’s Sundance is shorter, virtual, is not local to just Park City and has a new director for the first time in years. But what has not changed is that Sundance remains one of the best marketplaces for independent films. This year’s lineup for the festival set for Jan. 28-Feb. 3 even has some hopeful Oscar contenders such as Robin Wright’s “Land” and “Judas and the Black Messiah” from Warner Bros., and we’ve already seen a few titles such as “Together Together,” “The World to Come” and “The Most Beautiful Boy in the World” find homes. But while there may be fewer films overall and without the in-person wheeling and dealing, the market figures to be just as robust with some exciting movies up for sale.

Passing

Actress Rebecca Hall is making her directorial debut on “Passing,” a psychological thriller set in 1920s New York and
See full article at The Wrap »
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