GFF ‘Intersections’ to feature trend-setting short films

Intersections selection distinguished by their distinct approach to film-making

3 world premieres and 2 international premieres in showcase of 17 films

Several international festival award winners in the selection

Alongside its rich showcase of movies from the Arabian peninsula, the fifth Gulf Film Festival, commencing on April 10, 2012, is offering viewers the opportunity to watch trend-setting shorts from across the world in its out-of-competition Intersections segment.

Distinguished by their subject matter, narrative approach and the cinematic techniques employed, films in Intersections this year include fantasies that appeal to all, striking allegories, nerve-wracking psychodramas and powerful social commentaries.

Seventeen shorts have been confirmed in the Intersections programme with films from Algeria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, and UK. Of these, three make their world premiere at GFF, two their international premiere, 10 make their Middle East debut and two are screening in the GCC region for the first time. Several of these films have won critical acclaim at short film festivals.

Intersections highlights the truly international mix of cinema experiences that awaits viewers at GFF 2012, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) from April 10 to 16, 2012 at various venues in Dubai Festival City.

Making its world premiere at GFF is Behind the Window from Lebanon, directed by Nagham Abboud. Having secured an official section at the upcoming Panorama des Cinemas du Maghreb et Moyen Orient 2012-France and the Cannes Short Film Corner of Cannes Film Festival 2012, the film is a fantasy that will delight viewers as it follows the life of a 10-year-old boy who sees beauty through the rumbles of his life. Behind the window lies a new world, which captivates the boy, and gives him the joy he seeks.

Old age and loneliness is the predominant theme of the two other world premieres – Edwige, directed by Mounia Meddour, from France; and For Him, an Iranian film directed by Seyed Morteza Sabzeqaba. Edwige is the eponymous tale of a woman who stays alone in her big empty house on the Normandy coast. All her life she was pre-occupied with the well-being of others but for how much longer can she continue the role, especially with the harsh winter and loneliness knocking at her doors? For Him narrates the gripping tale of an old man who goes hunting by a riverside and comes across a strange object.

A futuristic tale from Algeria and a throwback into Czechoslovakia in 1972 make their international premiere at GFF 2012. Directed by Mouzahem Yahia, the Algerian film City of the Elderly is set in 2030. As the title suggests, the country now has only old people, with all the youngsters, except Wahid, having left the place in search of a new life. When Wahid announces his decision to leave, the old people, including the country’s president, try to prevent his departure.

Also a story of forced exile, Borders by Martin Philipp Raiman from the Czech Republic, narrates the story of a young couple who decides to leave everything behind. They take a train to Yugoslavia but very soon realise that it needs more than their will power to escape. They are taunted by the regime’s tactics, playing on their minds to the very end.

Building further on the trauma of forced relocation is Going, another selection from Iran by Salem Salavati, which makes its Middle East premiere at GFF. What goes through the minds of little ones who are forced to accompany their parents as they flee from homes, across borders to new lands – sometimes illegally? The suffering of these little ones, as they battle sleep and weariness, makes for compelling viewing.

Audiences at GFF 2012 can discover various genres in filmmaking with Intersections, as highlighted by Finale, the Hungarian entry, directed by Balazs Simonyi. The silent film noir is explosive in its gripping narrative style, as it portrays two men who are waiting at night for their greatest hit. Finale makes its Middle East premiere at the festival.

Acclaimed at various international film festivals, The Farm by Ignacio Lasierra from Spain is a chilling mystery about two civil guards who are on duty at a village festival. The night seems quiet and one returns to the barracks to experience strange occurrings that baffle him.

Another entry from France that makes its Middle East premiere at GFF is The Speed of the Past by Dominique Rocher. Having won acclaim at the Clermont Ferrand, Bermudas, California and Nashville international film fests, the film is about a couple who are moving into a new house in the countryside. Time freezes abruptly for the man, and his wife must now wait for him all her life.

Another international short film festival winner is Starting from A, from Indonesia, directed by BW Purba Negara. Making its Middle East premiere at GFF, the film is a heartwarming tale of a blind girl and a deaf boy. The girl becomes the voice of the boy, and he becomes her vision.

A co-production of Kyrgyzstan and the United Kingdom, The Song of the Rain, directed by Aygul Bakanova, won the Grand Prix at the Kyrgyzstan-Land of Short Films Festival. Set in a Kyrgyzstan village, the film centres on Begaim, a pregnant teenager, who is waiting for her husband to return from Russia where he works as a labourer. She lives with his grandmother who treats her like a servant. She is inconsolable when her husband finally sends home money but stops phoning her.

Explore fantasy land with Monster of Nix, the Netherlands, France and Belgium co-production, directed by Rosto. The film will appeal as much to children as to adults, as it narrates the story of the idyllic village of Nix, where everything is blissful and life couldn’t be better, until an all-devouring monster appears. It is now up to Young Willy to fight the monster – all alone. Will he survive? How does he manage the impossible? The metaphorical elements of the film will not be missed by the more discerning audience.

The Singaporean entry Artificial Melodrama by Giovanni Fantoni is a film dedicated to the new rising countries of the world. The film is set from the perspective of a European actress who arrives in Singapore and already wants to leave it as she finds the hyper-modernity of the new Asian cities unappealing. A taxi driver will show her how beautiful Singapore can be in a journey that will captivate viewers.

All the way from Norway is Hourglass by Pedro Collantes. This film was screened at Charleston International Film Festival in the US and won the jury’s special mention at the San Roque International Cinema Week in Spain. The film is a heartwarming tale of friendship, following the lives of two adolescents Anna and Anton. They live in a place where nature is as spectacular as it is isolated. To tide over the boredom of the daily grind, Anton explores the world beyond his bubble-like universe and Anna spends most of her time with her big fluffy dog. When the dog discovers a wooden box on the beach, their monotonous life will take a turn, which also becomes a test of their friendship.

A film that pushes the boundaries of accepted filmmaking norms, Noise by Przemyslaw Adamski makes its Middle East premiere at GFF. The film was screened to critical acclaim at various international animation film festivals. With no dialogues, Noise is a play of imagination provoked by sound. Noises seep into the flat of the protagonist, who interprets each sound, which in turn spins off random images some of them far removed from their real sources.

The two films that make their GCC premiere at GFF in the Intersections segment are Lebanon’s To Baalbek by Samir Syriani; and the Polish film Vanishing by Bartosz Kruhlik. The winner of the Special Jury Award at the NDU Film Festival and Best Short Film at the European Film Festival, To Baalbek charts the journey of an old couple who decide to visit the eponymous site. They set off on the search, often with no direction as they traverse deserts and wilderness. The path finally takes over their journey and the destination is lost.

The winner of the Special Mention Jury Awards at Dakino International Film Festival apart from Honourable Mentions at a slew of festivals, Vanishing is about a 35-year-old woman who takes care of the house in her husband’s absence. Her solace is her son, who does not return home on night, and none of his friends knows where he is.

Salah Sermini, Gulf Film Festival Consultant, said: “Edition after edition, we have understood that Gulf cinema will not develop internally only or by just celebrating itself. Gulf cinema needs to benefit from other cinemas – Arab and International – with experience and history. Intersections is considered as an appetiser before a heavy meal or a dessert after a meal. The 17 films are no less important than those in the competition and we can consider it as a true extension. Geographically, the selection is maturing in terms of the number of countries represented, while the films themselves are of excellent quality. The films in Intersections as in other international selections went through a long process of evaluation before it was chosen.”

GFF 2012 will be held from April 10 to 16, 2012, at the InterContinental Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Grand Festival Cinemas at Dubai Festival City; and from April 12 to 14 at the Abu Dhabi Theatre. The Investment Corporation of Dubai is the presenting sponsor of the Gulf Film Festival; Emirates airline is its official carrier. GFF is supported by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and held in association with Dubai Studio City.

More details and updates on the festival are available online at www.gulffilmfest.com

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