Montpellier (France) – The Cinemet Mediterranean Film Festival, which ends its forty-fifth session on Saturday in the city of Montpellier in southern France, is sometimes an important occasion for young talents to take their first steps at the event and move towards stardom in the field.
Tunisian, Moroccan, French and Italian productions are among the nine films competing to win the “Golden Antigone” award for best film, four of which were awarded in recent years as part of a “development aid grant” awarded by the film festival.
The grant supported 109 cinema projects, 50 of which were released in various Mediterranean countries.
“It is not the responsibility of festivals to take on the role of mediation and promote the release of films,” the director of the cinema festival, Christophe Lebarque, told AFP.
He added, “The important thing is that we realized that owners of unfinished film projects need to get paid to continue writing and finish the script.”
At the start of his career, film director Robert Gudejian from Marseille presented his first film project for a grant at the Mediterranean Festival in Montpellier before being honored as guest of honor during the fortieth session in 2018. Le Parc also confirms.
The same applies to Spanish Carla Simon, who came to present her first cinema project in 2015.
“Cinemamate was one of the first places where people believed in me,” recalls Simone, even though she didn’t get a grant at the time.
This year, he returned to Montpellier as a key figure in the “Catalan New Wave,” and in 2022 he won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for his second film, “Algaras.”
In 2019, French director Karim Benzala received a grant for his first film “Six Bites Sir Dere”.
“It’s a special flavor to return to this festival where I started,” Ben Saleh said Wednesday before a packed hall as his film was screened in the official competition of the Cinemet Mediterranean Film Festival.
He continued, “This grant was important because it allowed me to work on the script, but also to track and find actors” from Roubaix (northern France) to Nice (southern).
Three other films that previously won grants are competing for Saturday evening’s Golden Antigone award, Bosnian Ona Juniak’s “Excursion,” Italian Marco Amenta’s “Anna” and Moroccan Khalil Pengrane and Tunisian Afaf Ben Mahmoud’s “Backstage.”
Authors of 14 unfinished full-length film projects present their works one by one before a sometimes tough jury in a conference room at a hotel near the festival.
They each have half an hour to convince four industry experts, either producers or distributors, of the merits of lending a helping hand.
One of the jury members asked Algerian director Amal Belidi, who was trying to get a grant to support his film project titled “Mimouna,” “Wouldn’t it be better to put the self-immolation scene at the beginning of the film? And not in the end? Why don’t your two characters have a close relationship?”
Belidi says, “For Algeria, my film crosses borders, but the perspective here seems to lack the necessary courage.” As she left the stage, she admitted, “It’s good to have this kind of reaction, it’s interesting.”
Lebanese director Katia Saleh and her producer Nadine Naous felt “intimidated” during the oral conversation with the panel, according to what they said when they presented their project before the grant committee.
However, the 4,000 euros they received will allow them to finish the script and dialogues for the black comedy “La mort ne maura pas vivant”.
Palestinian director Wissam Al-Jaafari’s film project has received an 8,000-euro grant from the National Center for Cinema and Motion Pictures in France.
Due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza, al-Jaafari was forced to defend his program via video communication technology.