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CANNES – Nada Doumani, communication and cultural programming manager of the Jordanian Royal Film Commission, announced that the inaugural Amman International Film Festival would debut next April.
Doumani, speaking to The Arab Weekly during the recent Cannes International Film Festival, said the idea for a Jordanian film festival came about in 2018 when Jordanian Princess Rym Ali spoke at Cannes about the need for an international Arab film festival to help “nurture young Jordanian and Arab talents.”
Jordan’s promising film industry has been showing signs of competitiveness in recent years, especially after Jordanian directors received international acclaim for films such as “Captain Abu Raed,” “Theeb,” “The Last Friday,” “When Mona Lisa Smiled,” “300 Nights” and “Blessed Benefits,” said Doumani.
“It (the festival) is in line with the vision of Princess Rym Ali, the festival president, for the development and promotion of an Arab cinema that reflects the region’s creativity and speaks to its current issues,” Doumani said.
The Jordanian Royal Film Commission is looking for the festival to become a major platform and an incubator for cinematic talent in the Arab world.
Doumani said the first Amman International Film Festival would be April 13-18, 2020, in Amman’s Abdelli district.
“It is well-known that Jordan sits firmly on the map of the international film industry as an impressive venue for foreign film-makers who choose the kingdom for its diverse landscapes, rich and multicultural traditional heritage, as well as streamlined procedures and governmental support,” she said.
“Many a cinema fan saw scenes that were shot in Jordan, most famously perhaps were scenes from the 1962 film ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ The experience continued in the following years with Jordan providing film-makers worldwide with the most beautiful of captivating natural landscapes that were the reason behind some films winning international awards.”
Doumani said that “what the country lacks is a platform that would highlight promising and rising Arab and Jordanian talents who are attracting a growing international and local audience. Hence the idea of the Amman International Film Festival.”
What will be notable about the festival is its recognition of the various talents involved in film-making.
“The festival’s main [award] categories will not be limited to best directorial debut only. They will also include different artistic and technical categories, such as screenwriting, cinematography, film editing, film scores, set design and acting. The festival’s main competition will include both short and long films of both the fictional and documentary varieties,” Doumani said.
The festival will screen debut films from around the world. It will also feature a section in which known film-makers show and discuss both their debut and most recent films. The event is also to include seminars, lectures, film promotions and discussions with directors and actors.
Doumani said organisers were working on further development of the Cinema and Television Industry Forum, an annual event of the Royal Film Commission that aims to connect workers in the film and television industries. Also planned is a celebration of film and television professionals.
“It is therefore aptly named as the premiere cultural event in Jordan. We hope it will be a new and qualitative addition to the other film festivals in the region,” she said.
Doumani has been working in the media and communication sector for more than 20 years. She received a master’s degree in political science from the American University of Beirut in 1999 and worked in the print and broadcast press in Switzerland, reporting on Middle Eastern affairs in particular.
From 1999-2007, Doumani worked as a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, both at the organisation’s headquarters in Geneva and in hot spots around the world, including Kosovo, Burundi and Iraq.
Since 2008, Doumani has been managing the Media and Culture Section of the Jordanian Royal Film Commission. In 2007, she wrote a “Wounds in the Palm Trees,” which chronicled Iraqis’ testimonies. She also wrote, produced and directed a documentary film “The Journey of the Place,” which won first prize at an Italian festival in 2009.