EXCLUSIVE: L.A. and Cairo-based production company Ambient Light Films is upping its support for Middle East and North African indie cinema.
The company has unveiled details of six grants that it awarded to MENA filmmakers in the context of the CineGouna Bridge project market at the El Gouna Film Festival in December.
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They included cast grants for Tunisian filmmaker Hinde Boujemaa’s Yammi, about a son who lashes out at the women closest to him following his mother’s death, and Lebanese director Dahlia Nemlich’s Assa, a Fish in a Bowl, about a couple who hire an Ethiopian maid to care for their child with unexpected consequences.
Service grants went to to Lebanese director George Peter Barbari’s So the Lover Could Come Out Again about the relationship between snipers against the backdrop of the Lebanese civil war, and Tunisian road movie Tunis-Djerba by Amel Guellaty.
Further in-kind grant beneficiaries were Egyptian director Halal Galal’s The 4 Choices of Albert about a man making decisions that will impact his destiny, and an undisclosed documentary out of Yemen.
Ambient Light CEO, filmmaker and producer Ali El Arabi got his first break via the CineGouna Bridge for his debut feature documentary Captains of Zaatari and says he sees offering the grants as a way of “paying forward”.
Captains of Zaatari, about a Syrian refugee soccer film in Jordan, won a CineGouna grant in 2019 and then went on to premiere at Sundance in 2021.
“I feel a responsibility towards Arab and African films that are in their early stages, as I know that filmmakers from our region face many challenges to be able to make their films,” he said.
He added that his aim was for Ambient Light’s support to go beyond the initial grants.
“It’s incredibly important to me to continue to invest in and amplify the voices from the Middle Eastern and African region in the European and American market — a place where their voices are rarely ever heard. What that means is I will continue to be behind these filmmakers to find the best way to support them and push them forward on a global scale, in the best way that supports the art and the minds behind said art,” he said.
El Arabi founded Ambient Light Films in 2016. Based in Cairo and Los Angeles, the company produces and co-produces scripted and unscripted films, with a focus on empowering artists from the MENA and building bridges between the region and the U.S. and European markets.
Al Arabi recently finished production on his narrative feature film directorial debut 52 Blue about a young Indian soccer fan’s eye-opening journey as a migrant worker at the Qatar World Cup, starring Bollywood actress Neha Dhupia, and Life of Pi’s Adil Hussain.
He was also a co-producer on Sudan’s buzzy second-ever Academy Awards submission Goodbye Julia by Mohamed Kordofani, which was lead produced by Amjad Abu Alala, and executive produced by Lupita Nyong’o.
El Arabi is represented by CAA.
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