AMMAN – When Jordanian writer-director Bassel Ghandour began work on his feature debut, The Alleys, the skepticism that local film production companies expressed did not deter him. Instead of giving up, he sought another approach to telling the story.
Ultimately, this film has gone on to play at numerous prestigious festivals around the world and marked Jordanian cinema history by becoming its first Arab premiere at RSIFF – an historic milestone for Jordan’s growing cinema industry during a time when human rights are under fire.
Jordanian director Bassel Ghandour’s The Alleys had its Arab premiere at RSIFF after screening at film festivals worldwide. Starring Munther Rayahneh, this is the first feature to come out of Jordanian cinema in nearly a decade.
In East Amman’s gossip-ridden and violent neighborhood, a young hustler will do anything for his secret lover. However, her merciless mother won’t allow it. So she hires an extortionist to put an end to their relationship – but things don’t go as planned.
Nikki Baughan of Screendaily describes The Alleys as having a narrative as intricate as the area it’s set in: dark comedy, mystery thriller and crime drama all rolled into one. Thanks to an impressive cast, none of these characters blend into the background – each has their own voice and presence in their own story.
This film offers a refreshing take on gangster movies, blending Western and Arabic styles and using the community environment as its driving force. It’s also highly entertaining, making it worth watching.
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Naji Abu Nowar wrote and directed Theeb, a story of a young Bedouin boy leaving his tribe to venture into the desert during the Great Arab Revolt. Its success has been an indication of cinematic production growth in Middle East and North Africa over the past decade – a time marked by social movements as well as more artful representation onscreen.
The film is set in Jordan’s Wadi Rum region, a unique desert landscape and remote location that required some off-roading for each scene. Additionally, logistical difficulties faced cast and crew members including actor Jack Fox.
Theeb follows the life of Theeb, a young Bedouin boy living in Wadi Rum with his brother Hussein. One day, a British officer visits their village and asks Theeb to guide him on an expedition through the desert towards a Roman well. Along the way, Theeb becomes embroiled in world events of 1916 as they navigate adulthood, trust and betrayal. If he wants to survive, he must learn about adulthood, trust and loyalty.
As one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our times, Syria’s conflict has forced six million people from their homes. Jordan currently hosts the highest concentration of refugees with 30% making up its population.
One of the country’s most pressing concerns is the treatment of its refugee population, and film has a unique opportunity to promote awareness. This topic has not been adequately covered before, and The Refugees serves as an inspiring example of how film can help shape how we talk about refugees.
The film follows the International Rescue Committee’s work with refugees, exploring the logistics of running a camp and how this affects their lives. It also sheds light on the difficulties NGOs face when providing services to these displaced individuals. The film has screened at numerous international festivals such as Carthage, Al Gouna, and Muscat International Film Festivals where it received multiple awards and nominations.
Jordanian filmmaker Bassel Ghandour’s feature Al-Hara will have its Arab premiere at RSIFF as one of 16 Arabic and international films selected for the Red Sea Competition category.
Drama set in a gossip-ridden neighborhood, the film follows the tale of a deceptive young man who does anything to be with his secret lover but her cruel mother will not allow it. When an extortionist catches them in the act, her mother summons a gangster to put an end to it all.
Since 2006, Bab al-Hara (The Neighbourhood Gate) has been a favorite among Arab audiences. This television genre romanticizes life in imagined Damascene neighborhoods in the late 19th or early 20th centuries during Syria’s interwar period as they strived for independence from French rule and its colonial collaborators.
Regional sensation, it aired for five seasons on MBC and other networks across the Middle East and North Africa. It earned numerous awards, including Best Drama Series at both Cairo International Film Festivals in 2007 and 2008.