'Nomination to Oscars already a success': Palestinian director Basil Khalil on his film Ave Maria
Ahram Online, Wednesday 27 Jan 2016
Ave Maria, which is listed in the Live-Action Short Films section of the 2016 Oscars, will be the first film in Arab cinema to run for an Oscar in this category


In an interview with Reuters Arabic, the Palestinian director of Ave Maria, Basil Khalil, considered the production's participation in theLive-Action Short Films section of the 2016 Oscar already a success.

Ave Maria is competing along with Everything Will Be Okay (Austria), Shok (Kosovo), Stutterer (Ireland), and Day One (or Alles Wird Gut-U.S.)

Jordanian film Theeb, by director Naji Abu Nowar, was also nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film award.

Khalil told Reuters "that Hollywood chose to screen a short Palestinian film through such a big platform [like the Oscars]is very moving, and presents us with the chance to share our story with the world.”

“The Oscars is a huge honour, because it is the most prominent award, as well as the most important annual film event,” he added.

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’ car breaks down outside their convent at the beginning of the Sabbath. The family needs to get home but cannot 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.

The film, Khalil mentions to Reuters, was filmed in Haifa and in a deserted convent close to the city of Jericho in the West Bank. The filming lasted for three days, while the editing, sound mixing, and film score took two months to complete.

Khalil, 34, who was born and grew up in Nazareth to a Palestinian father and British mother, will travel to the US two weeks before the 88th Academy Awards ceremony, where he says he will conduct meetings with film agents and important film-producers.

“I still find it hard to believe these surprises. Important Hollywood producers want to meet me, and I must push myself to be attentive,” he explained to Reuters.

Khalil studied at the Screen Academy Scotland in Edinburgh, before moving to London where he worked in a number of production companies.

Asked whether the film stood a chance at winning an Oscar, Khalil said, “every year a different film, in terms of style, wins the Oscar. Last year’s film for example, was centered around a consultancy bureau that helps those wanting to committ suicide. As such, I am clueless as to what will happen this year, but I consider it a huge success to have reached this stage in the Oscars.”

Despite the film’s participation in a number of Arab and foreign festivals, the last of which was the 12th edition of Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) in December 2015, the young director aspires for his short film to be seen by Arab audiences.

“MAD Solutions [a Cairo-based company that specialises in public relations and marketing for the film and entertainment industry] is in charge of the film’s distribution in the Arab world, and will release the film across movie theatres, TV channels, and in different airlines as of February,” Khalil asserted.

“Also, audiences around the world will be able to watch the film through video on demand (V.O.D) in a few months,” he added.

The 2016 Oscars winners will be announced during the 88th Academy Awards ceremony, which will take place in Los Angeles, California, on the last Sunday of February.

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