ARAB STARS OF TOMORROW TAKE CENTRE STAGE AT DIFF
The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) returns for its 14th edition with another celebration of young Arab talent in the Arab Stars of Tomorrow showcase, which promises to recognise breakthrough talent from the Arab world.
A Screen International initiative launched in partnership with DIFF, the second edition of Arab Stars of Tomorrow has selected five supremely talented young filmmakers as hot prospects for the future. Coined as part of DIFF’s ongoing commitment to nurture the growth and prosperity of the Arab film industry, the initiative highlights the best and brightest young talent in an attempt to proliferate their profile on a global stage. The five talents have been curated and selected by Screen International’s France and Middle East correspondent Melanie Goodfellow.
To boost the profile of the five ‘ones to watch’, a profile of each of the Arab Stars of Tomorrow will be featured in the DIFF/Screen International dailies, which will be published December 7-11 at the festival. With a widespread circulation to thousands of industry professionals that attend the festival year upon year, the five stars will receive massive exposure, and will also have a section dedicated to them in Screen’s weekly print edition, and also on screendaily.com, both of which are distributed to and viewed by a global film industry demographic.
Now in the 14th year since its inception, Screen International’s UK Stars of Tomorrow has introduced actors such as Emily Blunt, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Robert Pattinson and John Boyega and directors such as Andrea Arnold and Andrew Haigh.
The inaugural Arab Stars Of Tomorrow, launched at DIFF in 2016, highlighted talents including Beauty And The Dogs actress Mariam Alferjani. This year Screen International has shortlisted a further five Arab Stars of Tomorrow with backgrounds in directing, acting and producing, who have already made waves in their respective fields.
The first of the Arab Stars of Tomorrow is Egyptian actor Ahmed Malek best known for his role as the young Hassan El-banaa in the series The Brotherhood, Ahmed in the series With Premeditation, and teenage womaniser Adham in the TV series Hayat’s Tale, for which he received recognition amongst Middle Eastern audiences. In 2013 he won a DG Award for ‘Best Young Actor’ for his performance as Ahmed in With Premeditation. Following his success with this role, he was cast in El Gezira 2 as Ali Mansour Elhefny. Ahmed Malek can be seen most recently in acclaimed drama Sheikh Jackson, which enjoyed its world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Prolific young actress, Maria Zreik, began acting at the age of eleven and got her first major role on the BBC series The Promise when she was seventeen. Following earlier successes, the Palestinian actress received critical acclaim with Villa Touma, for which she won Best Actress at the 2014 MedFilm Festival, before going on to play the leading role in the Oscar-nominated Ave Maria, which thrust her onto the international festival scene as the film screened at more than 180 film festivals and won more than 35 awards. Maria also has a supporting role in DIFF 2017 title Wajib, Palestine’s official Oscar submission, a family drama following a father and son as they hand deliver wedding invitations according to local Palestinian custom.
Up-and-coming Emirati actor Marwan Abdullah Saleh is set to make his first appearance on the big screen in Mohammed Saeed Harib’s debut feature film Rashid And Rajab (2017), an Emirati film that follows Rashid, a wealthy businessman, and Rajab, a poor deliveryman, who mysteriously switch bodies following a car crash. Comedy ensues as they struggle to switch back and see their lives from a whole new perspective.
Following the world premiere of his short Five O’Clock at DIFF in 2016, Iraqi director Ayman Al-Shatri returns to the festival as one of the Arab Stars of Tomorrow. A prominent name in the growing indie film scene in Iraq, Ayman Al-Shatri has received special mentions for his works at the Malmo Arab Film Festival. The young star has worked closely with fellow rising stars such as Ameer Ihsan, and continues to develop projects for the future.
Another rising Arab Star making waves as a director is Manon Nammour, hailing from Lebanon. Having graduated in film from Notre Dame University in 2013, she made her debut short film On The Ropes, which was showcased at Locarno and in the Muhr Awards at DIFF in 2016. Currently in pre-production for a second short film Barakat, the tale of a young man returning home to Lebanon to get married who goes in search of a shop named Barakat, Manon Nammour is also part of a vibrant young indie film scene in Lebanon.
Commenting on the selection, Screen International editor, Matt Mueller, said: “As Arab cinema continues to grow its international footprint, Screen International is delighted to be showcasing these outstanding rising talents. The five actors and filmmakers selected this year are all exceptional and talented individuals and we look forward to supporting their progress as they gain exposure in the international industry and seeing them prosper. Arab Stars of Tomorrow is an initiative that Screen International is extremely proud of and we are delighted to be continuing our partnership for a second year with DIFF, which has been a renowned supporter of Arab talent across the region since it launched.”
DIFF’s Managing Director, Shivani Pandya, commented: “Fostering and nurturing the growth of Arab talent has always been at the heart of DIFF, and we pride ourselves on granting global exposure to the exceptional talent that is emerging in Arab Cinema. Offering these talented individuals a global platform from which they can grow their profile and prosper into successful filmmakers is something we pride ourselves on and we are incredibly excited to continue this tradition into the Festival’s 14th Edition.”