Amman, 24 August 2020 – In the midst of exceptional circumstances, the inaugural edition of the Amman International Film Festival -Awal Film (AIFF) kicked off last night, 23rd of August 2020, in the presence of some 400 attendees. The Festival, originally scheduled to open last April in front of a large theatre audience, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to keep the Festival in motion without resorting to online screenings and while cinema theatres are still closed, the organisers had to find a creative solution that would respect social distancing rules. The AIFF is the first ever drive-in film festival in Jordan and the region. To allow access to a greater number of film lovers, the AIFF screenings are also being organised at the Royal Film Commission-Jordan’s open-air theatre, while industry activities are being carried out online.
Some 200 vehicles lined up in Amman’s New Abdali Boulevard District in anticipation of the opening, and the audience, in their cars, were ushered to their designated parking spots. The opening started with a concert performed by the Jordanian Ensemble as a tribute to Ennio Morricone, the Italian composer and musician, who revolutionised music scores, before passing away last month.
The opening was attended by Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, the Chairman of the Royal Film Commission and his wife, Princess Rym Ali, President of the AIFF. Princess Rym opened the event by addressing the audience on screen with a welcome note. Asked about the determination of the AIFF to maintain the Festival despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and she stressed the importance of finding ways to offer support to first-time filmmakers especially in times like these.
She added: “The film industry around the world has suffered greatly and, with it, all the economic sectors that depend on film. This is a rare opportunity for filmmakers to exhibit their work, to compete with one another and take advantage of further training and opportunities. As long as there are ways to do this safely, there is no reason for culture to take a back seat or to deprive artists from chances to move ahead.”
The opening film, a Jordanian première, “Les Misérables” was showcased on three big theatre screens. Its director, Ladj Ly, sent shockwaves across contemporary French and world cinema. With this directorial debut, he set a new standard for confrontational and socially conscious dramas, which landed him an Oscar nomination for Best International Film in the 92nd Academy Awards earlier this year.
Keeping in line with the AIFF’s vision of celebrating first-timers, the Festival’s selection committee worked around the clock for months to go through over 700 submissions, selecting 39 of the latest Arab and international movies that were never showcased in Jordan.
Sudan’s “You Will Die at Twenty”, Saudi Arabia’s “Last Visit”, Iraq’s “Haifa Street”, Palestinian-Jordanian “Between Heaven and Earth”, Morocco’s “The Unknown Saint” and “The Women in Block J”, Tunisia’s “A Son”, Algeria’s “Abou Leila”, and Lebanon’s “1982” will be competing for the Black Iris Award for Best Arab Feature-length Narrative.
In addition to the films screened at the drive-in cinema, 10 films competing for the Black Iris for Best Arab Feature-length Documentary, will be screened in the open-air theatre of the Royal Film Commission – Jordan (RFC). As of tonight, film enthusiasts will be able to watch thought-provoking and bold documentaries from eight different Arab countries: “Ibrahim, a Fate to Define”, “In their Prisons”, “Beirut Terminus”, “A Comedian in a Syrian Tragedy”, “The Profession”, “Fathallah TV, 10 Years and a Revolution Later”, “Noum el Deek”, “In Mansourah, You Separated Us”, “Madness in Aleppo”.
The international films selected for screening – a mix of narratives and documentaries – include: the Colombian “River of Souls”, the Brazilian “The Fever”, the Iranian “Once a Woman”, the Irish “Gaza”, the Italian “Stray Eagles”, the Croatian “Little Star Rising”, the Canadian “River Silence”, the French “Swallows of Kabul”, the American “Mickey and the Bear” and the Kurdish “The End Will Be Spectacular”. They are all competing for the Audience Award.
Furthermore, 9 short films – including three Jordanian shorts – are competing for the Black Iris Award for Best Arab Narrative Short. They are: “Exodus”, “Rubber Washer”, “Ram”, “Soul Return”, “Adam”, “The Trap”, “Huda”, “Rhinoceros” and “The Ghosts We Left at Home.”
Three juries, made up of renowned Jordanian, Arab and international film professionals, will deliberate online and select the winning movies, which will receive cash awards.
The AIFF dedicates itself to helping creative filmmakers – notably first-timers – achieve their artistic goals; it celebrates the junction and complexity of the film industry and aims to become an essential destination for local, regional and global filmmakers.
Hence, the Amman Film Industry Days (AFID) are running in parallel to the screenings, with a series of workshops, seminars, and pitching platforms for Arab projects in development or post-production. The winning projects are to receive cash and in-kind awards by an independent Arab jury on the 26th of August.
The AIFF’s Closing Ceremony will take place at the Royal Film Commission on September 2nd, when “Luxor”, by Jordanian-British director Zeina Durra will be screened out of competition, and winning films in various categories will be announced
Photo of Jordan’s first ever drive-in cinema click here.
Photo of HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and HRH Princess Rym Ali attending the Festival.
Photo of the opening ceremony.
Photo of the Jordanian Actress-Singer and MC of the Festival, Zain Awad.
Partners of the AIFF: Royal Film Commission-Jordan; Jordan Tourism Board; Abdali Investment and Development; Bank al Etihad; Zain; Pikasso Jordan; Ghiath & Nadia Sukhtian Foundation; Edgo Management Group; Greater Amman Municipality.
Media Partners: Roya TV; Jordan Radio & Television Corporation; Al-Mamlaka TV; Al-Raya Media Group; Mazaj FM.