Ghetto Film School (GFS) and Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) have announced the six finalists selected for the SNF 25th anniversary Humanity Inspires Tech filmmaking challenge, with the winners receiving a $3,000 production award to enhance their projects.
Each fellow was asked to tell stories about the connection between technology and humanity in two minutes, through their choice of short-form medium. In addition to receiving production money, the finalists will also be put through a 10-week mentorship program under the guidance of top industry veterans.
John Legend, Emily Mortimer, Camila Cormanni, Nikolas Aronis and Jacob Moe were among the notable jurists who selected the finalists and their films.
The winners and films include Netpich Udompanich’s “Taste of Tech,” Paola Camacho’s “1804,” Odysseas Spyropoulos’s “Me, Myself and The Internet,” Stephen Cullina’s “Mementos,” Gabriel Oh’s “Jolene” and Konstantino Kotsias’ “The impact of technology in our time.’
“All of us at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation would like to congratulate the inspiring winners of the film challenge,” said SNF co-president Andreas Dracopoulos. “Young people have invaluable perspectives to share on how technology can be a force for good in our lives, yet their voices are rarely heard in the conversation. Both in the content of their films and in the technology they used to create them, these six young storytellers show how tech can bring us closer to one another and help us better appreciate our own humanity…”
Sharese Bullock Bailey, chief strategy/partnerships officer and principal of Scope added, “We are honored to work with an organization so heaviley dedicated to advancing the next generation of filmmakers and continuously showing the positive impact on the communities it serves…”
Dubai Sales Agent Cercamon Launches Documentary Label, Announces EFM Slate (EXCLUSIVE)
Dubai-based sales agent Cercamon is launching a dedicated documentary feature label and will unveil its first slate of titles at this year’s European Film Market, including Constantin Wulff’s Berlinale Forum selection “For the Many – The Vienna Chamber of Labor.”
The company plans to handle 8 to 10 documentaries per year across all markets, with former Doc & Film International and Mediawan Rights exec Suzanne Nodale tapped to oversee all acquisitions and sales of the slate.
A specialist in documentary sales, Nodale has worked on titles such as Gianfranco Rosi’s Oscar-nominated “Fire at Sea,” Gregory Monro’s International Emmy Award winner “Kubrick by Kubrick” and “Banksy Most Wanted,” a Tribeca Film Festival selection from directors Aurelia Rouvier and Seamus Haley.
“I am thrilled to have Suzanne joining the team to expand the reach of Cercamon,” said the company’s CEO, Sebastien Chesneau. “I have known her since she first stepped into the industry and followed her career. Her experience combined with Cercamon’s existing assets allow us to diversify our activity while remaining true to our dedication to bringing new voices and compelling stories forward.”
Cercamon also revealed its slate for the upcoming EFM in February, including “For the Many – The Vienna Chamber of Labor” (pictured), which will have its world premiere in the Berlinale’s Forum strand.
Directed by Constantin Wulff and produced by Navigator Film, the film is set inside Austria’s Chambers of Labor (also known as AK), the country’s official legal representative for employees and the daily point of contact for people who are fighting for their rights within the workplace. Unspooling amid preparations for the institution’s centennial anniversary, “For the Many” offers a portrait of a place caught between a rich past and an uncertain future due to a rapidly changing economy.
“We knew through Austrian colleagues that Cercamon has done a very good job on upcoming independent arthouse features, and Suzanne has an impressive background in documentary sales,” said Wulff and Navigator Film CEO and producer Johannes Rosenberger. “During the intensive preparations for the Berlinale, we very much appreciated their input in order to position and market this purist, direct cinema-style work.”
“I had the chance to work on Frederick Wiseman’s films — the master of direct cinema — in the past and therefore really responded to the aesthetic of Constantin’s film,” added Nodale. “By immersing the viewer within the AK, we discover an institution absolutely unique in the world, a place for any worker to ask for their rights. At a time of economic uncertainty and the shift facing the workplace and labor rights worldwide, the film allows us to question what can be done to face these challenges without losing sight of the most important part of any job: the people performing it.”
Other titles on Cercamon’s EFM slate include IDFA Frontlight premiere “The Case,” by Nina Guseva. Produced by Stereotactic and lensed in Russia, the film follows human rights lawyer Maria Eismont as she works on the defense of Konstantin Kotov, an activist condemned to four years in jail and declared at the time a political prisoner by Amnesty International. Cercamon is preparing a TV cut of the film and is working toward further festival exposure.
Also on the slate is France-Burkina Faso co-production “If You Are a Man” by Simon Panay, which is currently in post-production. The film follows Opio, a 13-year-old boy who works in a gold mine in Burkina Faso in order to pay his school tuition. The French-born Panay has been living in West Africa for several years and has already directed several documentary shorts related to the mining industry, including “Nobody Dies Here.” Shot in an illegal mine in Benin, the film has screened in 71 countries and won 133 festival awards.
‘Jihad Rehab’ Review: Courageous Doc on a Saudi Rehab Center for Jihadist Extremists Both Enlightens and Provokes
“Are you a good person or a bad person?” This is the question that documentarian Meg Smaker poses to one of her subjects in a quietly reflective moment of “Jihad Rehab,” her thought-provoking film about Saudi Arabia’s controversial rehabilitation center for radicalized extremists. “I don’t know,” comes the response, from a man with a hefty résumé of terrorist activities. “That’s your job to figure out.”
But Smaker is on a different mission in her searing film, the very existence of which often feels like a miracle and an interrogative act of defiance. Not seeking clear-cut answers about what separates good from evil, “Jihad Rehab” is more interested in the why of things, asking questions and soberly, searchingly assembling its discoveries through unprecedented access. That doesn’t mean Smaker absolves anyone of the crimes they’ve committed — that’s not really her job. But as a former firefighter who moved to Afghanistan just months after 9/11 to educate herself on a part of the world she knew nothing about — studying both Arabic and Islamic theory during later years of residing in Yemen — she brings a unique temperament to her unprecedented project, fusing insider expertise with outsider curiosity. To this end, she wonders who these men are as human beings and whether there could be a realistic place in society for them.
Despite some rare accounts of people who’ve faked their way through the 12-month program just to rejoin al-Qaeda right after, the Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center seems, at first glance, mostly to work in its mission to provide a transformative halfway house of sorts for former Guantánamo Bay detainees. This is at least what the Yemeni trio Nadir, Ali and Mohammed hope for on their path to a normal life.
The principal subjects of Smaker’s film, they have all been recently released from Guantánamo after spending no fewer than 15 years inside. All three are former al-Qaeda members, with Nadir having also served as Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguard. Beyond that, Ali is burdened by the destructive legacy of his notorious militant brother Qasim al-Raymi, the emir of al-Qaeda in Yemen, who was directly responsible for poaching Ali as a jihadist at 16 years of age. Cagey arms specialist Mohammed, meanwhile, denies any wrongdoing at the start, only to confess his involvement in terrorism later on as he grows more comfortable in front of the camera.
This is a testament to the interviewing skills of Smaker, who follows the detainees — or perhaps it’s more appropriate to call them patients — for three years, both within and beyond the Center. On the inside, the men take classes in everything from contemporary etiquette to Freudian theory, create basic pieces of art and enjoy the institution’s various recreational facilities, including a sparkling swimming pool. It’s eye-opening to witness their inner moral battles, not having considered the devastating consequences of their actions before. “I didn’t understand 9/11,” Nadir admits. To him, it was no big deal that two buildings went down: why not just build another pair?
Elsewhere in the facility, the men attend lectures about married life, expecting to find brides upon their release with the start-up job and money promised by the government. The advice they receive is at best antiquated, and at worst infuriatingly misogynistic. “Women age faster than men, so find someone much younger,” they are told. Sometimes disrespected by the very men she portrays, Smaker commendably maintains a nonjudgmental tone throughout such segments, even when an angry, uncooperative Mohammed yells at her, aggressively explaining how a woman her age should just be a mother and wife. Viewers may not have Smaker’s patience or charity.
After a brief montage of getting acquainted with modern life — from movie theaters and shopping malls to the wonders of the internet — the trio is discharged, and the tone of “Jihad Rehab” significantly changes in its second hour. We’ve all seen enough movies about the hardships of real-world transition after prison, but the increasingly frustrated Nadir, Ali and Mohammed are faced with different challenges as civilians, especially after two of them get married and have children. Under the new administration of Mohammed bin Salman, the men find that they can neither legally work in Saudi Arabia nor, per the law for the Center’s graduates, leave the country for Yemen. Smaker seeks further answers in this chapter, going back to the Center’s administrative staff for help, and getting only a bureaucratic dismissal in return. It’s no longer their problem — they’ve done their part.
“Jihad Rehab” promises no absolute conclusions, and delivers none either. But notwithstanding some distracting directorial choices — notably the superfluous use of animation — there are ample reasons to admire and even be in awe of Smaker’s film, chief among them the courage and tireless inquisitiveness of Smaker herself. This kind of willingness and aptitude to understand the layers of the otherized has never felt more urgent.