Regional directors win big as Sundance wraps up

Saudi film ‘Dunya’s Day’ won an award at the festival. Image supplied
Updated 04 February 2019
0

Regional directors win big as Sundance wraps up

DUBAI: The 2019 Sundance Film Festival wrapped up on Sunday, but not before a handful of filmmakers from the Middle East were honored with prizes.

Announced on Sunda, the Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to Danish filmmaker May El-Toukhy for her movie “Queen of Hearts,” which tells the uncomfortable story of a woman whojeopardizes both her career and her family when she seduces her teenage stepson and is forced to make an irreversible decision with fatal consequences.

Meanwhile, two short films from the Middle East were recognized at the event on Jan. 29 at a ceremony in Park City, Utah, where the annual festival takes place.

The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to “Aziza,” a film listed as being from Syria and Lebanon. The 14-minute dynamic take on the life of Syrian refugees is a black comedy that tells the story of a husband who begins to teach his wife how to drive, all the while worrying about the lax laws of the road.

The film was directed by Soudade Kaadan, whose first feature fiction film “The Day I Lost My Shadow” was awarded The Lion of the Future award for best debut film at the 2018 Venice International Film Festival.

Meanwhile, Sundance’s Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction prize was awarded to a Saudi film, “Dunya's Day.”

Directed by Raed Alsemari, the 13-minute short film follows Dunya, who struggles to throw the perfect graduation soirée after her domestic help walk out in protest of her difficult attitude.

In January, “Dunya’s Day” made headlines for becoming the first Saudi film to premiere in Kingdom since cinemas re-opened last year.

By making a film with an all-female cast, Alsemari and the actors were keen to highlight the fact that Saudi women have stories that deserve to be told, and that films need not be driven by male characters. Inspired by classic Hollywood movies such as “Mean Girls” and “Heathers,” Alsemari wanted to put his own, Saudi twist on those stories.

“I wanted to tell a story about an Arab woman who was neither a victim nor a saint,” he said. “She’s in a position of power in the narrative. That was important for us,” Alsemari said at the screening in the Vox Cinema at Riyadh Park on Jan. 10.


Tourists follow ‘Game of Thrones’ trail in Northern Ireland

Updated 20 April 2019
0

Tourists follow ‘Game of Thrones’ trail in Northern Ireland

  • Since the series began in 2011, fans have started to flock to the coastal caves and ruined castles of the British province where much of the show was shot
  • Tourism Northern Ireland estimates the magical show drew 120,000 visitors to the province in 2016

BELFAST: Wielding a replica broadsword, Indian tourist Akshay Mannur duels with friends — re-enacting scenes from “Game of Thrones” on the Northern Ireland pilgrimage trail for devotees of the blockbuster fantasy TV show.
Since the blood and guts series began its rise to prominence in 2011, fans have started to flock to the coastal caves and ruined castles of the British province where much of the HBO television production was shot.
“Every new step is like something new, it’s more than my expectations,” 23-year-old student Mannur marvelled.
“It’s a beautiful country — Northern Ireland is just amazing.”

Tourism Northern Ireland estimates the magical show — in its final season — drew 120,000 visitors to the province in 2016, generating £30 million (35 million euros, $39 million).
One in six visitors now comes to Northern Ireland to visit shooting locations, according to their estimates.
Along the largely coastal trail, a short drive outside the capital of Belfast, that popularity is clear to see.
A steady hum of buses and coaches are marshalled in and out of parking lots on strict schedules, and sleepy village shops throng with tourists.
“The last week, I think on Saturday past, we had a bus with 24 nationalities on it,” said tour guide Patrick Rogan at the mouth of the Cushendun Caves, the site of a pivotal plot point in the series.
“We had people from Patagonia, from New Zealand, from Japan, from Russia, from South Korea and Europe, so I think that tells its own story.”
Since 2012 his employer — the “Stones and Thrones” tour — has offered daily outings out of Belfast, manned mainly by guides who have acted as extras on the show.
Today they run at least two full buses a day, he said, competing with at least four other companies offering a similar service.
Other more bespoke tour services offer immersive experiences — axe-throwing, archery, and photo opportunities with a pair of wolves that starred in the epic series.

A popular comparison holds that “Game of Thrones” is to Northern Ireland tourism what “Lord of the Rings” has been to New Zealand.
But Northern Ireland’s very recent bloody past during the so-called ‘Troubles’ — when 3,500 were killed in 30 years of sectarian strife — makes the boom particularly welcome.
“The dark history that was here is coming out,” said Irish actor Liam Cunningham, a stalwart character in the series now feted as the most expensive to ever be filmed for the small screen.
“The place is blooming, and for us to have this show here and be part of that transition is joyful.”

Cunningham was speaking at the opening of a touring exhibition of costume and scenery pieces in Belfast, the same week as the new season of the series premiered.
Ranked displays of dragon skulls, intricately crafted weapons and interactive exhibits are preceded by a gallery of landscape prints, depicting the countryside shooting locations.
A caption on one image reads “Views to die horribly for,” whilst another reads “Sun, sea and savagery,” referring to the show’s reputation for bloodily killing off major characters.
They are testament to the canny local tourist board, making efforts to cement the link between their territory and the series.
“I think our association with such a global success helps to transform the image of Northern Ireland across the globe,” said John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism Northern Ireland.
“In many ways that gives you PR that you just simply couldn’t buy.”
With the final season of “Game of Thrones” under way, the fever pitch devotion to the series may be about to end.
But with spin-off projects in the pipeline and a studio tour development due to open in Northern Ireland next year, the province still hopes for tourism revenues.
“We think this still has longevity,” said McGrillen.