AIFF Jordan 2024 Preview: Context Is Everything

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
AIFF Jordan 2024 Preview: Context Is Everything

The Amman International Film Festival - Awal Film (AIFF) is celebrating its fifth edition this summer, in what is shaping up to be a hot July for the Middle East.

Among the more than 30 long films and many short films in the main programs, there are two that in the context of the war raging in neighbouring Gaza immediately attract attention. One is a long film that is actually a collection of 22 short films from as many filmmakers that is named From Ground Zero (pictured above). They are all shot by artists and filmmakers in Gaza in the last months during the war. The project was aided by Palestinian director Rashid Masharawi and assisted by several other professionals. Something that makes us certainly curious, and if it doesn't leave us speechless for some reason or other we hope to report on it. 

Two, is the opening film this year, Bye Bye Tiberias. It is a semi-autobiographical film by Palestine-Algerian-French Lina Soualem, shown earlier at IDFA. It stands opposed to last year’s opening film of the AIFF called A Gaza Weekend  by Basil Khalil. Made in the innocent times of 2022, that film, a comedy, depicted an Israel that is hit by a virus which isolates it from the rest of the world. The only escape is via Gaza. In contrast Bye Bye Tiberias is a film about reconstruction and coming to terms with the past! Something the region sometimes seems very much in short supply of. We and the public wonder what the current context will do with the film.

In an advance statement, the board said: 'We are acutely aware that we are preparing for a cultural event, which aims to bring people together to celebrate audiovisual storytelling, at a time of great suffering and incommensurable destruction. The war on Gaza has raged relentlessly since October 2023, reaching unprecedented levels of violence, killing and maiming tens of thousands of civilians. [...] But it is precisely because of these horrors, of the stories untold or being misrepresented, that we believe in the absolute necessity to focus on our humanity, to reclaim our narratives and to shed light on what the region is creating and offering to the world".

Following this, the fith edition of the AIFF will be a sober edition. No red carpet. 'Dress code: business casual'.

The AIFF mainly shows first films by makers, and in that respect it is similar to the Rotterdam IFFR, which annually has first and second films in competition, and is the only festival in the region with that focus.

The competitive segments are dedicated to filmmakers from the Arab World, encompassing feature-length narratives, documentaries and shorts. Within the International section, the AIFF showcases films by debut directors from around the world, vying for the prestigious Audience Award. The Franco-Arab Rendez-Vous is a non-competitive section focusing mainly on Franco-Arab co-productions.

Special guest of the festival will be acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Asgar Farhadi. The AIFF will be held from July 3 to 11  in Amman, Jordan.

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