The rise of Jordan's film industry: Two films selected for Cannes

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(Photos: Faris Al-Rjoob/Jordan News)
The Cannes Film Festival is known for its glitz and glamour among reputable film festivals. For decades, this renowned international event has attracted movie stars, filmmakers, journalists, critics, and fans from around the world to the French city of Cannes, nestled along the picturesque Riviera beach.اضافة اعلان

For the 76th edition of the festival, and for the first time ever, will see the participation of two Jordanian films for the first time in the history of Jordanian cinema, despite the longstanding presence of the Kingdom’s booth promoting cinema activities, the local film scene, filming locations, production, and facilities provided by Jordan.

This year, two films were selected for participation: "Inshallah Boy" directed by Amjad Al-Rasheed as his first narrative feature film, which will participate in the Critics' Week competition held on the sidelines of the festival and Faris Al-Rjoob’s short film “The Red Sea Makes Me Wanna Cry”, which was selected to participate in the Directors’ Fortnight competition.

Jordan’s budding film industryThe participation of these two films in the prestigious global festival reflects the development of the Jordanian film scene, which has taken small and steady steps to establish its presence, present its talents, and tell its stories.

Despite fierce competition, Jordan’s film industry is currently viewed as a promising market in the region. The efforts of the Royal Film Commission have been instrumental in transforming potential into tangible reality by providing extensive support to local talents. This includes facilitating logistics, consultations and networking opportunities, and opening doors for Jordanians to expand their cinematic horizons.

The Jordan Film Fund has also contributed significantly to the industry by supporting various film projects, while the Amman International Film Festival has played a pivotal role in promoting the country's film scene. Overall, the efforts of these entities have created a conducive environment for the growth and development of the film sector in Jordan.

Jordan has been long considered a promising regional destination for filming due to the geographic diversity of its terrain, especially the impressive landscapes of Wadi Rum.

Dream come trueJordan News secured an exclusive interview with Faris Al-Rjoob, whose short work “The Red Sea Makes Me Wanna Cry” follows the story of a haunted woman, Ida, as she travels to the location where her partner disappeared in an attempt to feel his presence one last time, and to say goodbye. Shot in a spectral town in the South of Jordan on 16mm, this languid character piece wanders through aesthetic conventions of the cinematic American West and the romantic spirit of the Mythical Cowboy.

"I think the biggest challenge was finding financial support at the beginning for a film that did not seem to be political or have a popular cause,” Rjoob told Jordan News. “The film's issue was human, personal, and intimate, making it difficult to sell in the beginning."

However, Rjoob’s hard work to tell the story paid off. “I was at the airport, in transit, when I received the call that our film had been shortlisted,” he reflected. “The following morning, the festival director called me to express his love for the film and officially invite us to Cannes. It was a wonderful homecoming gift, as I had just arrived in Amman.”

“Cannes has always been a dream for me because of its historical significance as a hub of cinema,” he continued. “I am proud of our team and our film, which has created an original, tender, and deeply human cinematic piece. We are fortunate to be in Cannes, and we deserve to be there.”

Commenting on the other Jordanian film to compete at the festival, he said: “It is especially moving to learn that along with Amjad Al-Rasheed's ‘Inshallah a Boy’, our film is among the first two Jordanian films ever to premiere at Cannes.”

Regarding his inspiration for filmmaking as Jordanian, Rjoob noted that the film “Theeb” by Naji Abu Nowar and Bassel Ghandour “gave me hope when I was just starting out, and proved that we can compete on a global scale by creating true and uncompromising cinema that speaks to viewers and the world on an equal footing”.

“I hope that our film will inspire my peers in the same way and continue to pass on that faith."

DistributionBoth "The Red Sea Makes Me Wanna Cry" and "Inshallah a Boy" will have their world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The former will be screened in the Quinzaine Directors’ Fortnight, while the latter will be featured in Critics’ Week.

MAD Solutions, a distribution company based in the Arab world, will distribute "Inshallah a Boy" locally, while Pyramide International will handle international sales.

Alaa Karkouti and Maher Diab, co-founders of MAD Solutions, expressed their excitement for this historic moment in Jordanian cinema. They also acknowledged the crucial role MAD played in supporting Arab short films and investing in young and talented directors.

MAD Solutions previously distributed Amjad Al-Rasheed and Darin J. Sallam's short film in 2016.

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