Amman International Film Festival concludes with Black Iris Awards

From local picks to regional gems, the big screen shone with cinematic excellence at this year’s edition of AIFF.

Prince ali aiff
(Photos: Amman International Film Festival (AIFF))
The fourth edition of the Amman International Film Festival – Awal Film concluded in a spectacular manner with the presentation of the prestigious Black Iris Awards. This grand event, featuring 56 films from 19 countries, was a testament to the festival's growing influence and significance in the world of cinema.اضافة اعلان

And while the festival has come to its end, don’t miss out on some of these

Celebrating filmmakers and diversity
The eight-day festival celebrated the talents of filmmakers not only from the Arab region but also from around the world. It provided a platform for 56 recently released films, many of which were premiering for the first time in Jordan. This diverse film selection added a unique flavor to the festival, attracting a broad audience eager to explore the world of cinema.

Nada Doumani, the festival's director, expressed her satisfaction with the festival's rapid growth while staying true to its core mission and spirit. She highlighted how the festival had evolved beyond being merely a showcase for talented filmmakers. It had become a vital tool in supporting the growth of the film industry. Moreover, it served as a dynamic networking forum where personal connections and professional encounters thrived, all within an atmosphere of camaraderie and a shared love for cinema.

The Black Iris Awards
 The festival's closing ceremony was graced by distinguished guests, including HRH Princess Rym Ali and HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, along with numerous officials, partners, members of the filmmaking community, and honored guests. The highlight of the evening was the announcement of the Black Iris Awards winners.

While the festival has come to its conclusion, here are the Black Iris Award winners that you won't want to miss out on. Whether you are discovering these films for the first time or revisiting them, indulge in cinematic excellence and diverse storytelling that truly captivate.

In the Best Arab Feature-Length Narrative category, the Tunisian film "Ashkal," directed by Youssef Chebbi, claimed the coveted Black Iris Award. The film is a hypnotic hybrid of a police thriller, political film, and mystery film bordering on the supernatural. It follows the story of a man who sets himself on fire in the Tunisian neighborhood of Carthage Gardens, the same neighborhood where Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in 2010, sparking the jasmine revolution. However, this new suicide bomber is a construction worker with no political connections. On the trail of this event is the young policewoman Fatma, who struggles to be seen and heard in a male context. Together with the veteran Batal, they witness the beginning of a bewildering chain of incidents throughout the city, linked only by an intriguing, hooded, and faceless figure.

‘Fragments from Heaven’
Meanwhile, the Moroccan documentary "Fragments from Heaven," directed by Adnane Baraka, secured the Black Iris Award in the feature-length documentary category. The film portrays the story of two men, a nomad, and a scientist, who embark on a journey in search of pebbles in the vastness of the Moroccan desert. This quest may seem absurd unless these are celestial stones with the power to transform the lives of those who find them. Mohamed, the nomad, and Abderrahmane, the scientist, comb the arid lands, searching for meteorites, each with their own hopes.

‘My Girlfriend’
The Egyptian short film "My Girlfriend," directed by Kawther Younes, was also recognized with a Black Iris Award. The film tells the story of a couple challenging traditional gender roles. It follows the couple as they explore their relationship and arrive at a new understanding of what it means to be a man and a woman.

‘Lyd’A noteworthy addition to this year's festival was the FIPRESCI prize in the documentary section, awarded to "Lyd," directed by Rami Younes and Sarah Ema Friedland. The film narrates the story of Lyd, once an important city in Palestine, largely destroyed during the Nakba, the forced displacement of Palestinians in 1948. The film focuses on the ongoing impact of the Nakba on the Palestinian community in Lyd, which continues to face home demolitions, land confiscation, and other forms of discrimination.

Additionally, the audience award for the best non-Arab film went to "Hafreiat," directed by Spanish director Alex Sarda. The film presents an intimate portrait of a man on the margins of society trying to move forward. Abu Dya, a Jordanian Palestinian, aims to establish a life separate from his family, but his criminal record hampers his efforts. The observational film documents a man's relationship with family, land, and laws, raising questions about the possibility of leaving the past behind in a society that appears to resist reintegration.

Honorable mentions and special awards
The festival did not conclude with just the major awards. It recognized excellence across various categories, including special mentions and jury awards. In the Arab Feature-Length Narrative Competition, "Hanging Gardens" by Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji (Iraq) received the Jury Award. The film undeniably reflects Iraqi reality but with an ironic, melancholic, and surreal touch. It often takes a dark and dystopian tone while offering a glimmer of hope for its main character, a 12-year-old.

Special mentions were also awarded to Adila Bendimerad and Damien Ounouri for "The Last Queen" (Algeria), Rana Khattab for her role in "Rat Hole" (Egypt), and Marilyn Naaman for her role in "Mother Valley" (Lebanon).

In the Arab Feature-Length Arab Documentary Competition, "Lyd" by Rami Younis & Sarah Ema Friedland (Palestine) received the Jury Award, while Zakaria Jaber received a special mention for "Anxious in Beirut" (Lebanon).

In the Arab Short Film Competition, "Hamza: Chasing the Ghost, Chasing Me" by Ward Kayyal (Palestine) and "Trinou" by Nejib Kthiri (Tunisia) received special mentions.

A growing festival with a bright future
Representing a milestone in its growth, each edition has continued to evolve, presenting outstanding films and fostering the growth of the film industry. The festival's commitment to supporting emerging talent and providing a platform for diverse voices in cinema is commendable.

As it looks to the future, the festival organizers can consider expanding its reach even further by exploring additional film categories. This expansion can honor the cinematic achievements of individuals passionate about cinema and dedicated to supporting the local industry. Their hard work has significantly impacted the development of Jordanian cinema.

The festival could also showcase the debut films of Arab and international directors, offering them a platform to showcase their work and connect with audiences. Additionally, creating a database of Jordanian films and filmmakers could make it easier for people to discover and watch Jordanian films.

The fourth AIFF edition was a resounding success, celebrating cinema from the Arab world and beyond while nurturing the next generation of filmmakers. 

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