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(Middle East in A remarkable and effective Arab women’s presence at the Toronto International Film Festival

Los Angeles – “Al-Quds Al-Arabi”: The Toronto International Film Festival announced on Sunday evening the winner of the People’s Choice Award, “Belfast” by British director Kenneth Branna, who shot it in black and white, and presents his autobiography in his hometown, the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast, in 1969 When civil war erupts between pro-British Protestants and pro-Ireland Catholics, by telling the story of a Protestant family decides to emigrate.
The film evokes Mexican director Alfonso Cuarán’s black-and-white film “Rome”, which dominated the Oscars two years ago.
And “Belfast” came in second place, the Canadian film Sasha Nakaya and Rich Williamson “Scarbara”, which tells the story of the maturity of three school students from poor families and from different ethnic backgrounds, while “The Strength of the Dog” by Australian director Jane Campion, who won the silver lion, came in third place. For Best Directing at the Venice Film Festival last week, the Toronto Film Festival also honored British hero Benedict Cumberbatch with the Excellence in Acting Award.
The People’s Choice Award for Midnight Madness went to Julia Ducarnau’s surreal film Titan, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
The People’s Choice Award is an important indicator of the Oscars, as most of the films that won in recent years went to win the best picture Oscar, such as “Slumdog Millionaire”, “King’s Speech”, “Green Book”, “Parasite” and “Nomadland”.
It is usually chosen by the festival goers. But this year, those who did not attend due to Covid-19 participated in the vote and watched the films online. The number of participating films decreased from three hundred to one hundred.
Although the festival presented a virtual version in addition to its real version, the majority of the participating filmmakers and stars attended their film screenings and shone on the red carpet, while most international media outlets were absent, which were satisfied with covering the festival’s activities and films via the Internet.
Film trading companies also did not attend the festival and concluded sales and purchase deals through the Zoom service.
This media and professional absence resulted in the cancellation of noisy parties arranged by film promotion agents, which put the awards campaigns in a bind this year, because the Toronto festival is the most important platform for promoting films before the next awards season kicks off. However, some films have emerged thanks to the awards they received at the Anfeh festivals or thanks to the praise of critics.
Like the science fiction movie “Don”, which was screened out of competition in Venice, and the Toronto Film Festival honored its Canadian director, Denny Villeneuve, with the Excellence in Directing Award. Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Princess Diana in “Spencer” and Jessica Chastain, who was honored with an Excellence in Acting Award, in “Tami Fay’s Eyes” as the American Christian missionary Tammy Fay.

The Lebanese film “Costa Brava” is the best Asian film

On the Arab level, Lebanese director Mona Akl’s “Costa Brava”, which was shown in the category of contemporary international cinema, won the Netback Award for Best Asian Film.
This is the third time that an Arab film has won the award. The Palestinian film “Gaza Monamour” won it last year and the Lebanese film, 1982, two years ago.
“Costa Brava”, starring the Lebanese Nadine Labaki and the Palestinian Saleh Bakri, got its first show at the Italian Venice Film Festival, where it participated in the “Aafaq Extra” category.
The film explores the Lebanese crisis through the story of a family whose ideal life in the mountains is turned upside down when the government builds a landfill next to their home. Conflicts erupt between its members about staying or leaving the house.

The Palestinian “Huda Salon” wins the admiration of critics

While the Palestinian actress Maysa Abdel Hadi won the admiration of critics, some of whom speculated that she would be nominated for an Oscar, for her performance in “Huda Salon” by the twice-Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Hani Abu Asaad, where Maysa embodies the role of a housewife from Bethlehem named Reem, drugged by a hairdresser named Huda. She is photographed naked next to a naked young man in her bed, and when she wakes up, Huda tells her that she must cooperate with the Israeli intelligence if she wants to avoid publishing the photos. Reem finds herself in front of two options: either the scandal and the destruction of her personal and marital life, or the betrayal of her homeland. Her affairs deteriorate and she falls into a terrifying spiral when Hoda’s case is revealed, and the youth of the resistance arrest her, find the pictures, and start searching for the girls to interrogate them.
Abu Asaad does not address the Israeli occupation in the film, but rather highlights the shortcomings of the patriarchal Palestinian society and holds the female victims responsible instead of supporting them in confronting their blackmail by the agents of the occupation.
Instead of following Reem’s character in one teaser, Abu Asaad presents a parallel plot in which he deals with Hoda’s character and her motives in dialogue scenes between her and the leader of the resistance, in order to avoid using the “flashback” method to probe the phenomenon of blackmailing women through Reem’s story, which weakens the film and makes it It looks like two films competing for the story.
In an interview with Abu Assad, he admitted that taking this method in presenting the film was a risk and that he wanted to try a cinematic method different from the common methods of telling such stories.
“Huda Salon” participated in the Mansa competition, which was won by the Indonesian film Camila Andini “Uni”, which revolves around a high school student who defies her society and rejects marriage proposals in order to enroll in university.
Like other participating films, most of the six Arab films that were shown at the festival are also women’s, including the Jordanian film Dareen Salam “Farah”, which takes place in 1948 and revolves around the joy of a fourteen-year-old girl, who convinces her father, the mayor of her village, to allow her to complete her studies in City. But her dream turns into a nightmare when the Palestine war ignites and the Israelis invade her village. Her father closes the food store for her and goes to fight without returning, so she remains imprisoned. Through a gap in the door of the storehouse, she witnesses a heinous crime committed by the Israeli soldiers against a Palestinian family trying to hide in its family’s home.
Farha evokes Hollywood films such as the films Anne Frank and Jojo Rabbit, which presented the Holocaust in World War II from the perspective of an innocent girl. It is the first film that reaches the world and presents the events of the Palestinian Nakba from a Palestinian perspective. Farha is a real character who was imprisoned by her father in order to protect her and has not returned. But the other events of the film were fabricated by Darren based on the stories she heard from her grandparents, who lived through the Nakba and were forced to flee their country.
The film’s narration shocked Westerners, who are accustomed to the Israeli and Hollywood narrative, which has always presented the Israelis as victims and the Palestinians as aggressive villains.
The film was also condemned by the Israeli media, which denied that their soldiers committed such crimes, despite the fact that there is conclusive evidence and confessions by their leaders proving that they committed mass massacres in Palestinian villages and cities.
Another film that deals with the Palestinian reality is the documentary “Devil Drivers” by German directors Daniel Karsenti and Palestinian Muhammad Abu Ghaith, who present the story of Palestinian drivers who smuggle workers from the West Bank to Israel in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the Israeli army. When one of them smuggles a Palestinian suicide bomber, he is accused of terrorism and sent to prison for five years.
Ironically, the drivers are trying to distinguish themselves from the Palestinian resistance and insist that they are not part of it, even though they and their families are subjected to daily abuse by the Israeli army. But Abu Ghaith justifies their position, saying that they did so in order to exonerate their son from being involved in a “terrorist” operation and release their son from prison.
With the curtain down on the Toronto festival, the awards battles move to Hollywood, where they will continue until the Oscars on the 27th of next March.
As for the Arab films that participated in the festival and previous festivals, it is likely that they will represent their countries in the Oscar competition for the best international film.

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