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Syrian film festival  

leaves many dissatisfied

Critics say that local talent was overlooked in favour of international actors and younger generation filmmakers were completely cast aside.

Damascus: Amidst a crowd of Syrian and Arab celebrities, the 17th Damascus Film Festival commenced on Saturday but has left many spectators dissatisfied. Not only did critics say the event was poorly organised, but many felt that local talent was overlooked in favour of international actors and younger generation filmmakers were completely cast aside.

Culture Minister Riad Naasan Agha spoke at the opening ceremony, calling on Arab filmmakers to “get inspired by the long struggle and resistance of our brothers in Palestine,” then dedicating the entire event to Jerusalem, capital of Arab culture in 2009. Aside from the political rhetoric, the opening night witnessed the granting of achievement awards to numerous stars such as directors Marwan Haddad and Najdat Ismail Anzour from Syria, along with the actors Khaled Taja and Amal Arafeh. Among the international names also honoured at the opening ceremony were the Egyptian star Yousra, Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica, and Swiss actress Ursula Andress,, Sean Conner’s co-star in the 1960s James Bond classic.

Visibly absent were big names and pioneers of Syrian cinema like Duraid Lahham, Rafiq Sibayi, and Muna Wassif.

Among the complaints was that Serbian filmmaker Kusturica, was allowed into the Opera house, wearing cargo trousers and a black shirt, in complete disregard to the black tie dress code.

Also the Public Establishment of Cinema (PEC) charged with all film production in Syria since 1970’s makes no more than 2-3 low-budge films per year, due to limited financial resources, and had only two films showing this year. Many people say that money used for organizing the event should be channelled into the organization to encourage local filmmaking.

“They still rely on grants from the Ministry of Finance and make zero percent revenue from the films they produce. That needs to stop,” Young film director Talal Derki notes to Gulf News.

“Syrian filmmakers have boycotted the event to show how angry they are at being marginalized for so many decades. It is very important to have an international film festival for Damascus---I support it in principle---but more important than one grand festival is to have one excellent Syrian film of international calibre which can mirror us as Syrian filmmakers,” legendary Syrian director Nabil Maleh told Gulf News.

“Cinema was at one point, the jewel of the crown of the cultural life in Syria. That is no longer the case, because the quality, art and content of films produced by the PEC over the past 20 years. Successful films have been very few. I think it should be our duty to make good film and good art, more than to make a good festival,” Maleh added.

 source Gulf News.


الكاتب: Basma Qaddour

مصدر الخبر: SNS

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