AIFF finishes with high-profile guests and a political message.

TRH Prince Ali and Princess Rym (third and second from left) at the closing ceremony of the Amman International Film Festival. (Photo: Ameer Khalifa/JNews)
AMMAN — Complete with several red carpets and giant Styrofoam black irises, last night the Royal Film Commission’s film house in Jabal Amman filled up with jurors, industry guests, and participating directors. The evening included the final disclosure of festival winners.اضافة اعلان

All in all, the film festival’s second year was a successful expansion from 2020’s inaugural effort. In part because of the lightened COVID-19 restrictions, the festival was able to screen movies not just at its drive-in theater at Abdali Boulevard, but at TAJ cinemas as well.

“I think we managed to live up to our ambitions, of course we would like it to grow further but we trust that it should always keep its identity as it is,” said festival director Nada Doumani.

Doumani plans on expanding the festival even more in 2022, with hopes of balancing the desire for bigger industry names to visit Jordan with celebrating stories from first-time Arab filmmakers. 

“We’ll probably have the same with more guests and we hope to have, probably, a bigger participation, especially from Jordanian filmmakers. Because this festival is essentially made for people in Jordan,” she added.

“It will probably attract more audience, more people interested in cinema, more people who would like to work in the cinema field. And I trust that the festival will be on the map in the region very soon.”

Among some of the guests was Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef. Youssef joined the closing ceremony to present and speak on the importance of expression through filmmaking. “I really like what the festival is doing, basically giving a chance to people with first films, first movies. Which is great, because I myself had nothing to do with media or television and somebody had to give me the first chance. So it’s good to see that the film festival is doing that for people with first experiences,” he told Jordan News.

Youssef said he would be interested in engaging with Jordanian film culture as the scene continues to grow. “In the past few years, Jordan has been putting a lot of investment in films in becoming a hub for movie-making and television productions. And even a lot of productions from the Gult, from Egypt, they are being filmed here.”

The awards themselves featured a distinct trend noted director and festival juror Samir. All three winners of the major festival accolade, The Black Iris, were female directors. “Honestly, we had, in our jury, no doubt in the first place,” he said, specifically referring to the jury’s selection of Honey Cigar for the Best Arab Feature-Length Narrative category.  

“We saw all these films, and they are first time films, except one, which was of course excellently done. But we have decided to support a young director, a brave director, from Algeria. Who lives in France, but who lives the life of millions of people today, a migrant life. A life torn between two different cultures,” the Iraqi-Swiss director told Jordan News after the ceremony. 

Samir went on to admit that the jury absolutely gravitated towards a central theme, however unintentional. Many of the films featured this year included narratives concerning women’s struggle for empowerment, as well as international and regional societal critique through various feminist perspectives.

“You could say it’s a political sign, or a message to everyone that we support, of course, the fight of the women for their rights and for their destiny,” Samir said.

Beyond the statements that can be gleaned by the jury’s selections, the Amman International Film Festival can once again claim success just for existing another year. The festival’s seven-person team once again had to face pandemic-related obstacles, albeit less restrictive, in the interest of putting together a strong slate of local, regional, and international films.

Bassem Youssef added, in addition to his crediting the festival’s growth, that such events are in the interest of any future promotion of self-expression in Jordan.

“A film festival is a place where people can express themselves with their art. Art, in itself, is one of the most beautiful outlets for self-expression and it’s done in a beautiful, artistic, and attractive way,” he said.

“And it doesn’t have to be on the nose, it doesn’t have to be in a preachy way, or it doesn’t have to be in an aggressive way. Sometimes the most powerful statements can be done with the most artistic and beautiful expression.”

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