Authoritative list: Arab Cinema Centre’s tenth anniversary celebration

Nahed Nasr , Tuesday 28 May 2024

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Arab Cinema Centre (ACC), founded by MAD Solutions in 2015, continues to be a prominent bridge linking the Arab film industry with the international film scene.

Arab Cinema Centre


Through its active presence at the Cannes Film Festival and the Cannes Marché du Film for the tenth year in a row, the Arab Cinema Centre has played a huge role in highlighting Arab productions and their makers.

Among the initiatives it launched eight years ago is the annual Critics Awards for Arab Films, in which an international jury selects the best Arab films that participated in international festivals outside the Arab world. According to Alaa Karkouti, co-founder of ACC, this event has become one of the most influential, as the award’s jury has expanded to include 242 international critics from 72 countries who participate in selecting the winning films.

“For this number of international critics to see the year’s Arab festival credits not only highlights the most important productions but also encourages influential critics to write about Arab films in prestigious and widely circulated websites, newspapers and magazines. It certainly expands the scope of interest in Arab films, so that they no longer remain ‘festival films’.”

This year’s Critics Awards for Arab Films winners are: Goodbye Julia by the Sudanese Mohamed Kordofani as Best Feature Film and the Best Screenplay; the Tunisian Kaouther Ben Hania as Best Director for her Four Daughters, which also won the Best Documentary Award and the award of the Best Editing by Qutaiba Barhamji; the Jordanian Mouna Hawa as Best Actress for her role in Inshallah a Boy by Amjad Al-Rasheed, which also won Best Cinematography by Kanamé Onoyama; the Palestinian Saleh Bakri as Best Actor for his role in The Teacher by Farah Nabulsi; and the Saudi-Egyptian film Hajjan by Abu Bakr Shawky which won Best Music by Amin Bouhafa. This year’s round of the Critics’ Awards for Arab Films introduced a new Best Short Film category which the Egyptian Murad Mustafa’s I Promise You Paradise won.

The eighth Critics Awards for Arab Films is organised by ACC in collaboration with MAD Solutions, the International Emerging Film Talent Association, and the Emerging Film Talent International Competition (EFTIC).

At the 77th Cannes Film Festival, ACC also announced Lebanese critic Nadim Jarjoura and British critic Peter Bradshaw as the two recipients of this year’s Achievement Award for Film Critics, in recognition of their outstanding professional careers. Jarjoura is a journalist and author whose insightful articles and in-depth studies have been prominently featured in various distinguished Arab magazines across Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman, France, and Qatar. As for Peter Bradshaw, he has been chief film critic at the London Guardian since 1999, documenting and influencing the discourse surrounding the British film industry and beyond. Testifying to his influence on the critical scene, Bradshaw is regularly invited to Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Edinburgh, London, Rotterdam, Lisbon, Rio, and Donostia San Sebastian international film festivals.  

The ACC Achievement Award for Film Critics is bestowed annually at the Cannes Film Festival to an Arab and a foreign critic. Past recipients include the late Egyptian critic Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, Lebanese critics Ibrahim Al-Ariss and Mohamed Rouda, and American critics Deborah Young and Sydney Levine.

But perhaps the ACC is even better known for its list of the 101 most influential figures in the Arab film industry, the Golden 101, launched in 2018. According to Karkouti: “The purpose of the list is not to honour, but rather to shed light on influential figures in the Arab film industry. In fact, the number of the most influential figures usually exceeds 150, but we are limited to 101.”

This year the list has been published in the English language Arab Cinema Magazine, edited by the New York-based Colin Brown, a MAD Solutions managing partner and former editor-in-chief of Screen International, where he founded the leading online publication Screen Daily. The new issue was available at Cannes and can be accessed on the Marché du Film website.  

Karkouti points out that the magazine became one of the three most viewed publications on the official website of the Cannes Film Festival, which makes the Golden 101 has been paid enormous attention. “The list serves as an annual map of the influential figures in the Arab film industry over a period of 12 months, between the last and the present Cannes festivals. It is crucial for international filmmakers to get to know faces in the Arab film industry.”

It has comprehensive categorisation, as Karkouti explains: “The film industry does not depend on actors and producers alone. It is rather based on the variety and intersection of efforts in its various sectors. It is necessary, in order to define the features of the Arab cinema map and reach an integrated picture of the state of the industry, to shed light on all figures including film crews, financiers, initiators, supporters, promoters and developers of opportunities.”

This year’s includes 13 directors, 16 producers, 14 actors, five crew members, 18 distributors from 12 institutions, 12 executives from 10 governmental film institutions, 11 executives from seven video-on-demand platforms, 11 representatives from seven festivals, and seven executives from film-financing institutions.

Egypt is well represented on the list with actors Youssra, Mona Zaki, and Ahmed Malek alongside filmmakers Hani Khalifa, Murad Mustafa, and Peter Mimi, as well as producers Mohamed Hefzi, Shahinaz Al- Akkad, and Sawsan Youssef. Also from Egypt are composer Khaled Al-Kammar, editor Ahmed Hafez, and cinematographer Mustafa Al-Kashef, along with CEO of United Media Services Ashraf Salman, and Chairwoman and Managing Director of  WATCH IT Nashwa Gad Al-Hak.

There is also a strong showing for Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, Kuwait, Sudan, and Qatar.

Regarding the criteria for selecting the most influential figures, Karkouti says there are different criteria for each category. “The criteria for selecting film theatres, for example, include the number of screens, revenues over 12 months, and the extent of their influence in more than one Arab country. As for the category of actors, the criteria depend on the films and series in which they participated, the scope of their presence, and whether they achieved record revenues, as well as their presence on social media. Certainly the criteria differ when we talk about Arab and international funds to support Arab films, where the limited funding provided by some entities can make a significant and effective impact.”

Karkouti seems proud of the growing achievements of ACC: “International filmmakers have become accustomed to a permanent, updated and widely available source of information and data about the Arab film industry, its productions and the most influential players. The impact of the Golden 101 List and the Critics’ Awards for Arab Cinema is growing year after year, because they offer a deeper and more nuanced understanding of who’s who in the Arab film industry.”

* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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