Amman, 21 July 2018 – Rawi Screenwriters’ Lab welcomed the participants of its 14th round last week. Remarkable feature-length screenplays, along with their Arab screenplay writers (Rawi Fellows), made their way to Dana Biosphere Reserve, where the ambiance couldn’t be more inspiring and motivating. The Lab also received nine established award-winning screenwriters (Creative Advisors), who arrived to Jordan from different parts of the world, eager to advise the selected Arab screenwriters.
Those accomplished and carefully selected Creative Advisors had been in the place of Rawi’s emerging screenplay writers one day. Their experience and journey towards success are offered to the Fellows so as to support their vision and encourage their development. Rawi Fellows have consequently embarked on a critical ride of developing their work, with the aim to tell their feature-length stories in the most compelling way.
Fellows and Advisors worked together for five days; from July 16th until July 20th. They were ensured an environment suitable for screenplay writing. For the first time, Rawi has been accommodated by Dana Biosphere Reserve - owned by The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).
Ever since its inception in 2005, Rawi Screenwriters Lab has supported some of the most important new voices in Middle Eastern cinema. For its first 11 years, the Lab was run in collaboration with Sundance Institute and was modeled on the Institute’s esteemed Screenwriters Lab. Over the years, the Lab has matured and Rawi is autonomously managed by the Royal Film Commission – Jordan (RFC).
The Creative Advisors for this year include: Rashid Al-Mashharawi (Palestine), Csaba Bollok (Hungary), Nadia Elewat (Jordan), Fernando Eimbcke, (Mexico), Georges Hachem (France/Lebanon), Andres Heinz (United States), Pedro Peirano (Republic of Chile), Anne Rosellini (United States), and Karim Traidia (Algeria).
Anne Rosellini, Oscar-nominated co-writer of “Winter’s Bone”, said: “It has been such an honor to be a part of the 2018 RAWI lab. The program’s organizers have nurtured a deep sense of community and mutual respect, which has created a supportive space where projects can grow. The enthusiasm and commitment to supporting emerging work is palpable on all fronts. This is a valuable and enriching experience for all who participate."
Selected projects and fellows for this year’s edition of Rawi are: “Like Salt” by Darine Hotait (Lebanon), “Ayesh (Alive)” by Haitham Dabbour (Egypt), “I’ll Go to Hell” by Ismahan Lahmar (Tunis), “Barzakh” by Laila Abbas (Palestine), “Ne’meh” by Mohannad Abu Rizk (Jordan), “Ibraham’s Journey” by Shaker Tahrer (Iraq), “Not Snow White” by Taghrid Abdel Maksoud (Egypt) and ‘’Stoning the Jasmine’’ by Zaina Deeb (Jordan). This year, the Lab also welcomed “Sharaf” by Ala’a Al-Qaisi (Jordan), an additional participation from another RFC’s program; the Debut Feature Film Program.
Commenting on this year’s Lab, Princess Rym Ali, Member of the RFC’s Board of Commissioners, said: "We, at the RFC, thank all the advisors, who have generously taken time out from their summer schedules to mentor scriptwriters and are grateful for the support of the Writer's Guild of America. This year takes our guests to one of Jordan's most beautiful natural reserves, which will certainly bring them all the inspiration needed to move forward on their stories."
Following is a brief about each Fellow and project of Rawi 2018.
“Like Salt” by Darine Hotait (Rawi Fellow)
When living in diaspora turns into a boxing match, on the ropes, one learns to fight with bare knuckles.
Darine Hotait is a Lebanese fiction writer and film director. She has written & directed a number of narrative short films that have been screened at numerous international film festivals and received multiple Best Short Fiction awards. Hotait holds a Master’s degree in screenwriting and film directing from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Her new short film "Like Salt" makes its international premiere in July 2018.
“Ayesh” (Alive) by Haitham Dabbour (Rawi Fellow)
An HIV patient’s journey to reconcile with his illness.
Haitham Dabbour is an Egyptian journalist and scriptwriter. His script "Ayesh" recently won Swairis Prize for Best Screenplay in 2016. This screenplay has not been produced yet. He is a mid-career screenwriter as his first script for the feature film “Photocopy” was short-listed for the 2014 Sawiris prize and was recently released in movie theaters.
“I’ll Go to Hell” by Ismahan Lahmar (Rawi Fellow)
When society decides how you have to live your life, can you decide how to die?
Ismahan Lahmar is a Tunisian filmmaker. During the Tunisian revolution’s days, she directed two documentaries about the revolution “MON 14” and “Enti Essout”. She also made two short movies “Get Married” and “Rainbow”. In 2016, Lahmar wrote and directed a Tunisian comedy “Woh” released in Tunisian theatres. She is currently developing two features projects” I’ll go to Hell” and “a Respectable Family”.
“Barzakh” by Laila Abbas (Rawi Fellow)
Mariam and Kawthar’s father dies leaving 195,000$ behind. By law, their brother gets double what they get. If they can hide his death, they can withdraw 3,000$ per day with his ATM card.
Laila Abbas is an independent producer, writer and director. She started out her career doing managerial work in the Arab Radio & Television (ART). Abbas holds a degree in Business Administration, but her passion to tell stories drove her to join the SAE Institute in Jordan and get a degree in Digital Filmmaking. Her first short fiction film was “Visa” (2011). This film awarded her the Said Foundation scholarship to pursue her Master’s degree in Film & TV Producing at Royal Holloway University in the UK. She is now developing her first feature film “Barzakh”.
“Ne’meh” by Mohannad Abu Rizk (Rawi Fellow)
“Ne’meh” is a drama that illustrates the obstacles facing a group of inhabitants of a village in the Jordan Valley in the year 2125, where the scarcity of water drives a group of women, led by Ne’meh, a strong-willed elderly woman, to risk their lives to save their village.
Mohannad Abu Rizk was born and raised in Jordan. He was born to be in film. At a young age, his interest in editing and cinematography was obvious to everyone around him. At school, he would start to shoot short films with his classmates. Football being his other passion, he made highlight reels of football from archive footage he found online of players he always admired.
“Ibraham’s” Journey by Shaker Tahrer (Rawi Fellow)
Ibraham ́s exile life suddenly turns over when his past is dramatically catching up and all his memories flashes through his mind.
Shaker Tahrer has previously written, directed and produced the following short films: “My Father Doesn’t Cry” (Min pappa gråter inte) and “Soccer-player at Midnight” (Fotbollsspelare vid midnatt). His films have competed in several major European film festivals such as: French Clermont-Ferrand, German Dresden Film Festival, Copenhagen Film Festival and others.
“Not Snow White” by Taghrid Abdel Maksoud (Rawi Fellow)
In Cairo, a veiled woman dwarf catfishes a tall man online on a Muslim marriage website. Her lie is out as a man dwarf falls for her.
Taghrid Abdel Maksoud is an Egyptian female screenwriter and director. She worked for over fifteen years as an assistant director in the Egyptian film industry. Abdel Maksoud studied filmmaking at the American University in Cairo, in London Central Film School, and in a Fulbright scholarship at University of California Los Angeles and in New York Film Academy Los Angeles.
“Stoning the Jasmine” by Zaina Deeb (Rawi Fellow)
Captured by ISIS, Sa’ad is an Air Force pilot who awaits his death in a dark cell in Syria. Outside in the yard, the stage is set for his execution. Will he surrender to the desperation and futility of his situation, or rebel against his reality to reaffirm what makes life precious: freedom, humanity and love?
Zaina Deeb is a Jordanian graphic designer and copywriter. Born in 1982, Deeb holds a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Jordan in Amman, and initially worked in web management for over 10 years. In 2017, she started a career as a screenwriter writing her first feature screenplay, “Stoning the Jasmine”, which received awards and recognition from various international film festivals and writing contests including West Field Screenwriting Awards, Jaipur International Film Festival, and more.
“Sharaf” by Ala’a Al-Qaisi (The Debut Feature Film Program Fellow)
The life of a conservative Palestinian woman who works in a lingerie store, turns upside down after a video of her kissing a man goes viral on social media.
Ala’a Al-Qaisi is a Jordanian screenwriter/film director. Al-Qaisi has received several awards from The University of Jordan, The Hashemite University and Languages Centre for her theatre and short story writings. She moved to Australia in 2009 where she studied filmmaking at Sydney Film School, and directed two short films; “Walk in my Shoes", and "Pink Swing". Al-Qaisi has just finished working at the Australian French movie SLAM. She is currently working on her feature film directorial and writing debut for the drama movie “Sharaf”.
For more information, please call: Royal Film Commission, Marian Nakho, tel: 06-4642266/ Ext: 23
About The Royal Film Commission – Jordan:
The Royal Film Commission – Jordan (RFC) is a public institution, with administrative and financial autonomy, established in 2003 with a mandate to promote for and contribute to the development of an internationally competitive Jordanian audio-visual industry. The RFC organizes training workshops, screenings and provides production support services.