Showing posts with label When I Saw You. Show all posts
Showing posts with label When I Saw You. Show all posts

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When I Saw You: A Film That Could Win the Next Foreign Language Oscar

Congratulations to the film  "When I Saw You" for winning Best Arab Film at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival last month and for being the Palestinian entry for Best Foreign film for the Oscars.

The following piece by E. Nina Rothe in The Huffington Post gives more info about the film and discusses the possibility of being nominated for Best Foreign Film at next year's Academy Awards


Global Culture Explorer
When I Saw You: Could This Palestinian Film Win the Next Foreign Language Oscar?
By E. Nina Rothe

Posted: 10/25/2012

There are two dates that are crucial to all Palestinians. The first is 1948, when the Arab-Israeli War displaced the first wave of perpetual refugees during a time known as the Nakba -- "the disaster." The second is 1967, when those Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza were also unsettled by the Six-Day War, families were forever separated and a new Palestinian exodus surged.
But there may be a third date to add to Palestinian history, this time a positive marker of great things to come. In 2013 the Palestinian state may acquire non-member "observer state" status at the UN which would mark a day when, in the words of veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, "life will not be the same." This coming year could also see the first Palestinian entry on an Oscar short list and quite possibly an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film going to Annemarie Jacir's When I Saw You. Yes, her film is just that good and with Iran withdrawing, the members of the Academy should be looking for a new milestone.
If it sounds like I'm gushing about Jacir's film, don't be mistaken, I am. I've been a huge fan of her work since watching her first feature two year ago. Salt of this Sea was beautiful cinema, with a strong, angry and perfectly right to be so heroine. But her latest, When I Saw You, is cinematic poetry, the perfect blend of stunning cinematography, humanly portrayed characters and a story that hits you with an immediate gut reaction, yet colors your dreams and inhabits your thoughts for days to come.
Perhaps my deep-rooted love of Jacir's work stems from the fact I believe that as individuals, all we really want in our heart is to belong and to be understood. While most filmmakers explore this basic human craving with stories about lovers and romance, Annemarie Jacir has always hit closer to home for me, journeying through the plight of the displaced. And anyone who has ever left their home behind, for however long or by whatever reasons, cannot be left unmoved by Jacir's films.
Both of Jacir's feature films, she confesses, are personal. While Salt of this Sea presented a more political character in Soraya, Jacir admits When I Saw You came out of "such a different place." She continues, "it came out of the depression after being denied entry [into Palestine] and searching in my own life for hope, for hopefulness." The film is an ode of remembrance to a time when Palestinians felt hopeful and Jacir explains the choice of a specific date to open When I Saw You:

"I think 1948 is the year that is important for all Palestinians, it's the year that we lost Palestine, became refugees and I think everybody is affected by that year. But 1967 is more personal to my family because we are from the West Bank, my parents are from Bethlehem and that was the year they lost their country. Those who stayed behind lived under military occupation, those who were outside could not return and all my life I grew up hearing '1967,' all their casual conversations were 'before 1967,' it was always the point of reference -- life before 1967 and life after 1967. So I wanted to do something with that time period, that I also had not seen on screen before."

Out of the magic that turned out to be this year's Abu Dhabi Film Festival, I was asked to moderate a talk with Jacir for an afternoon "in conversation with" this brilliant filmmaking voice from the Arab world. I had heard Jacir talk before, I knew there was still much left unsaid and so much I wanted to ask her. The depth of her films seem to point to a woman way beyond her 30-something years (although she jokes that somewhere on the internet there is a rumor she was born in 1948) and a person who, despite her struggles, has retained a powerfully positive spirit and outlook.

Before Salt of this Sea, "I had the privilege of Palestine" Jacir says during our talk and continues, "then I was denied entry and could no longer return." Finding herself in the position of Tarek -- the 11-year-old protagonist of When I Saw You who longs for home, refusing the boundaries set by those around him -- and many Palestinian refugees "who can just see their homeland across the valley and can no longer reach it," Jacir felt depressed. Yet through the film, four years and a wedding later "to get personal, I was split up from a loved one, who's now my husband," Jacir's situation changed and more recently she's managed to return to Palestine three times, the earliest with filmmaker Ken Loach on his first visit to the country.

When I Saw You, to someone who watches cinema for its impact beyond sheer entertainment, is a revolutionary film. Funded in pre-production by SANAD (the Development and Post-Production Fund of ADFF), it marks important milestones all around for cinema from MENA. Jacir admits, "they supported the film in development, so did the Dubai Film Connection and that's also new for us, for Arab cinema because historically we've had to look towards Europe for financing, we don't get it from our own countries." Jacir calls SANAD "a filmmaker's dream come true" because "they were there, they chose the project" and basically said "go ahead, we trust you and your producers to do the right thing." Then in post-production "SANAD came on board again along with the Thessaloniki Film Festival" and Jacir jokes, "this broke film was saved by a broke country, Greece, in the most generous way." Also noteworthy, there were private investors from the region who loved Salt of this Sea and wanted to be involved in Jacir's next project.

When I ask Jacir what she means with her title, she explains, "When you see something or someone that you've seen maybe a million times but you really see it for the first time because you understand something then that perhaps you didn't understand before." She also gives another explanation as in "seeing Palestine from Jordan, you recognize it over the valley, you see cities at night, the lights... It's so far away and yet so stupidly close."

Jacir is the first to admit that her film could not have existed without her magnificent cast, Mahmoud Asfa and Ruba Blal, along with the divinely sultry Saleh Bakri and the ensemble cast of freedom fighters -- some the sons and daughters of the original, real life Fedayeen. Playing the role of Tarek, the poised and touchingly mature beyond his years Asfa is clearly a darling of the audience in Abu Dhabi and murmurs of "Where's Tarek?" can be overheard on closing night, when the cast and crew accept their well-deserved award for Best Film from the Arab World in the New Horizons category. Asfa is a boy-man who, in Jacir's own words when "not smiling is so heartbreaking, and then when he smiles is like the sun." The stunning Ruba Blal is so wonderfully real in person, when I meet her I have a hard time remembering I'm in the presence of a Palestinian acting legend, albeit a very young one with a great sense of humor.

But ultimately, the triumph of a film lies within the impact it has on the audience, beyond what critics may write or what awards it collects. When I Saw You comes from the collective spirit of a cast and crew who celebrated their win in Abu Dhabi with humble pride, a filmmaker whose vision can easily include realistic portrayals of the games played by an 11-year-old child who doesn't understand labels and the stubbornness of a woman looking for restitution, at any cost.

While Jacir's film pushes us to find the humanity beyond the labels the world imposes on us, there are three I'd personally like to apply to When I Saw You: Beautiful, groundbreaking and deeply, deeply moving.

The film screened on Nov. 4th at the American Film Market in Los Angeles.

Still from When I Saw You and photo of Annemarie Jacir courtesy of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, used with permission

Follow E. Nina Rothe on Twitter:

Monday, July 16, 2012 Helping (Arab) Filmmakers Fund Their Films

Aflamnah is a digital platform that helps independent filmmakers, artists, scientists, students, innovators, thinkers and more to raise funds for their projects by getting people excited enough to financially support their idea so that they can make it happen.

Aflamnah is a digital platform that helps independent filmmakers, artists, scientists, students, innovators, thinkers and more to raise funds for their projects by getting people excited enough to financially support their idea so that they can make it happen.

For more info about Aflamnah see and

Here are six of the films that you can help fund or promote through the site along with a bit of info and video clip from each work:

1. ABU RAMI: THE FILM ( by Sabah Haider in Lebanon )

Abu Rami – The Film: This film tells a story of how Mona, an elderly Muslim Lebanese woman is suffocating inside a tattered marriage as she is plagued with suspicions of infidelity of her taxi-driver husband Abu Rami, a man who is absent even in his presence. The film, set in an unspecified location in Lebanon, follows Mona on the day where chance circumstances trigger her to confront Abu Rami with her suspicions, and both their lives change forever.

Here is a video clip about Abu Rami:

To support this film go to

2. ADEELA (by Nicholas Ybarra in United States)

Adeela tells the story of a young Muslim American woman dealing with oppression in a small conservative town. Upon moving to this new area, she catches the eye of a councilman’s son, Aaron. Together, the couple push for Adeela to sing the national anthem at the town’s annual 4th of July Festival. But with interference from Aaron’s brother and father, the goal becomes an obstacle, and one that could change both of their lives, and the town, forever.

Here is a video clip about Adeela:

To help fund Adeela go to

3. JOURNEY IN MIGRATION (by Hind Shoufani in Palestine)

This is an art house feature-length documentary exploring the last 60 years of Palestinian politics seen through the prism of the life of the Director's father, Dr Elias Shoufani, a leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, an academic writer and leftist intellectual who worked with Fateh (but was one of the leaders of the opposition to Arafat) for over 20 years.

Here is a video clip:

To help fund Journey in Migration go to

4. THE KIDNAP (by Dima Hamdan in Jordan)

The Kidnap tells the story of Ali who is taking revenge for a crime that Hasan committed 20 years ago. If the secret is exposed, then Hasan’s reputation and career will be in jeopardy. But time is running out and there is no easy solution; he can either save himself, or his family. Hasan is a Jordanian police chief with the world at his feet. He’s a powerful man at work, and a proud husband awaiting the birth of his first child. But his world is torn apart when his pregnant wife, Amal, is kidnapped two days before she’s due to give birth.

Here is a video clip:

To help fund this film go to

5. WAJD: MUSIC, POLITICS & ECSTASY (by Dima Alansari / Amar Chebib in Canada)

From the crowded streets of Damascus, to a traditional Aleppine courtyard, into an intimate Sufi lodge of Istanbul, Syrian-Canadian filmmaker Amar Chebib invites us into a deeply personal journey exploring traditional Arab-Ottoman music and its delicate relationship with Islam and the state. Through a poetic narrative, riveting interviews and ecstatic musical performances with some of Western Asia’s most significant musicians, academics, and spiritual figures, we uncover what makes this music so evocative, why some religious/political authorities forbade it while others embraced it, and the influential role played by Rumi and the Mevlevi Sufi Order in preserving it.

Here is a video clip about this film:

To help fund Wajd go to

6. WHEN I SAW YOU (by Annemarie Jacir in Jordan)

Set in Jordan in 1967, When I Saw You (Lamma Shoftak) follows the story of Tarek, an eccentric and unbounded young boy, and his mother Ghaydaa, who have just become refugees from Palestine. Except Tarek is a boy with a free spirit and curious nature; one that doesn’t allow anyone to limit his dreams…

Here is a video clip from this film:

To help fund When I Saw You go to

For more info about these films and others go to

Annemarie Jacir's Second Film 'When I Saw You' Nears Completion just announced that Annemarie Jacir’s second feature film “When I Saw You” is near-complete. Set in Jordan in 1967, When I Saw You (Lamma Shoftak) follows the story of Tarek, an eccentric and unbounded young boy, and his mother Ghaydaa, who have just become refugees from Palestine. Except Tarek is a boy with a free spirit and curious nature; one that doesn’t allow anyone to limit his dreams…

This low budget, independent film was made possible because of the support and generosity of several organizations and people including the Sanad, AFAC, Abu Dhabi Film Commission, K. Shoman Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Dubai Film Connection, Landmark Hotel, Thessaloniki Post Production Award, ATICO, …

The Director needs your support for the final part of the process…. She has begun the process of festival submissions, creating marketing materials like posters, postcards, etc., updating their very out of date website.  

The success of this campaign depends on your contribution. Filmmaking is a collaborative effort -- it takes a crew, a cast, and supporters like you. And most of all, an audience.

Facebook Page:
Twitter: @PhilistineFilms and @AnnemarieJacir

Ramzi Salti's Talk: Healing through Lebanese Music (EPIC Fellows, Stanford Global Studies, September 2020)

Watch full talk at This audio-visual talk by Stanford Lecturer + Arabology program host Dr. Ramzi Salti was pre...