The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) was founded as an independent initiative to fund arts and culture projects by individuals and organisations, aiming to expand and nurture cultural exchange across the Arab world and internationally.
Since its foundation in 2007, AFAC has funded 700 cultural projects including 150 films.
In Cairo, the Film Week will screen 18 movies from Arab filmmakers, including productions from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
Ahram Online spoke to Rima Mismar, AFAC’s film programme manager, about the film week's selections and the priorities of the initiative.
Ahram Online (AO): The Cairo week is the second edition of AFAC Film Week. What triggered the initiative?
Rima Mismar (RM): The point is that after film festivals, the film’s life ends. And we realised that we can extend our support beyond the financial side by creating other opportunities through the Film Week’s programme.
AO: Is the timing of the Film Week linked with the continuation of the whole support process?
RM: The filmmakers often get their chance to present their works internationally first, and ACAF continues to support them after this initial phase. We also make sure our screenings don’t clash with any regional or international events related to the films.
AO: So you started in Beirut before coming to Egypt?
RM: Indeed, the first time was in Beirut because we thought it would be best to have it close to where our offices are located.
The point of the AFAC Film Week is for it to be touring Arab cities. And in addition to celebrating these works, it is also to share the films with their proper audience around the Arab world. In Egypt we have many grantees that we have supported and it is also a place we feel we want to be present.
AO: The films screened in Beirut were different than the ones chosen to be screened in Cairo. What were the parameters of selecting the films for each city?
RM: The selections presented in Beirut included many films that are already known to Egyptian audiences. Though re-screening is not a bad thing, in Cairo – as in all other cities – we try not to present films that have already been seen, giving new opportunities to those filmmakers.
In this context, Silvered Water by Ossama Mohammad from Syria is an exception as the film was already screened at the 36th edition of Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). Silvered Water represents a diversity of a visual language that we advocate in AFAC.
We always seek films that are bold and experimental with their form of expression. The selection includes documentaries, shorts, feature fiction and so on.
AO: Is the same selection going to be screened in Tanta and Minya?
RM: This is the first time we have had screenings in Cairo but also extra screenings in other cities, namely Tanta and Minya. In the latter two, there will be three films screened over the span of three days.
AO: Most screenings are accompanied by the filmmakers or producers. Is this an essential part of the project?
RM: The interaction between the filmmakers and the audience is the key. What we are missing in the Arab world is this discussion between the two sides. Not only does the filmmaker have an opportunity to express himself but the interaction between both sides also reveals the audience’s expectations. This way we go beyond the film itself.
AO: AFAC’s grants support many young filmmakers, many of whom tackle what can be perceived as sensitive issues, either social or political. Some filmmakers might find it hard to have their films screened in different countries. What is AFAC’s positioning regarding the choice of topics?
RM: We support everyone but the bigger percentage of funding definitely goes to young directors.
The “sensitive issues” have never hindered the support. As long as a film has the quality, innovation and urgency of subject, we will stand by it.
Having said that, we have to underscore that AFAC claims no rights over the films. Once the film has been granted, there is no interference in the creative process from our side.
AO: And who exactly is behind the selection process of AFAC’s grants?
RM: AFAC’s staff aren’t the ones to make those decisions. We assemble a jury of renowned regional professionals, which changes for each cycle of selections, and for each category. The jury includes people from different countries, who represent a diverse taste and age range. What unifies them is their ability to be very generous and to be able to see what’s great in other’s works that is not similar to their own.
Check the AFAC Film Week Cairo programme here
Ahram Online is an official media partner of AFAC Film Week in Cairo.