Arab eyes on Palestine's ‘Ave Maria’ and Jordan's ‘Theeb’ in Oscar announcements

Ahram Online , Sunday 28 Feb 2016

Both films -- a comedy short and a feature -- have a shot at winning an Oscar Sunday in Los Angeles

Oscar nominees

All eyes are on Palestinian short film Ave Maria and Jordanian film Theeb ahead of Sunday's 88th Academy Awards ceremony. 

Directed by Palestinian director Basil Khalil, Ave Maria is listed in the Live-Action Short Films section, and is the first film in Arab cinema to run for an Oscar in this category. It is competing alongside Everything Will Be Okay (Austria), Shok (Kosovo), Stutterer (Ireland), and Day One (or Alles Wird Gut-U.S.).

The 14-minute comedy short tells the story of Palestinian nuns living in the middle of the West Bank and who have their daily routine of silence and prayer disrupted when a family of Israeli settlers breaks down outside their convent at the beginning of the Sabbath. The family needs to get home but can't operate the phone, while the nuns have taken a vow of silence.

The film is a French/German/Palestinian co-production, spoken in Arabic, English, and Hebrew. The film’s cast includes Maria Zareek, Hoda El-Imam and Shady Srour.

Another Arab film in the 2016 Oscars nominees list is the Jordanian film Theeb, which is competing for the Best Foreign Language Film award. It is competing alongside Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia), Mustang (France), Son of Saul (Hungary) and A War (Denmark).

Directed by Jordanian Naji Abu Nowar and produced by British Rupert Lloyd, Theeb tells the story of a young boy who accompanies his brother, an English soldier and his guide, to a well near the newly established train tracks for his mission.

The storyline involving continuous travel on camels through the desert allows for cinematography by Wolfgang Thaler to pay tribute to the beauty of the Jordanian landscape.

The film previously won the British Academy Film Award (BAFTA) for an Outstanding Debut for British Writer Director or Producer earlier in February, making it the first Arab film to win at the British awards.

Theeb has screened across many major festivals and won several awards. At Venice Film Festival, Theeb brought Abu Nawar the New Horizons Award for Best Director.

The film also won the Best Film from the Arab World, FIPRESCI Prize for Best Narrative Feature at Abu Dhabi Film Festival, and the Belgrade Victor and Best Script awards at the 43rd Belgrade International Film Festival (FEST).

In November 2014, the film was screened at the Cairo International Film Festival as part of the Prospects of Arab Cinema Programme, where it won the Jury Prize for Best Cinematography and Artistic Direction.

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