Meryam Joobeur‘s “Motherhood,” Mo Harawe’s “The Village Next to Paradise” and Mia Bendrimia’s “The Magma” claimed a trio of post-production prizes at this year’s Atlas Workshops, which ran from Nov. 27 – 30 as part of the Marrakech Film Festival.
Winner of the top award, “Motherhood” walked away with a €30,000 ($32,621) post-production grant. Produced by Sarra Ben Hassan, the film builds on themes director Joobeur explored in her Oscar-nominated 2018 short “Brotherhood,” once again tracking family tensions when a young ISIS combatant returns to his Tunisian home. With her feature debut, Joobeur will now explore the story through a lens of maternal guilt, incorporating touches of magical realism and psychological horror for good measure.
Set for delivery early next year, the film is touted for a splashy festival launch.
In fact, Joobeur had already left Marrakech and was already headed back into the rush of post-production by the time the prizes were announced; she accepted her prize with a note.
“The end of the filmmaking process feels like a birth,” she wrote. “It brings a lot of fear and vulnerability as you prepare to release a part of your soul into the world. However, I also have a lot of hope. I’ve always deeply believed that storytelling can be a powerful antidote to that illusion that humanity is separated into clans. I hope my film can show that the human condition is universal, complex and can’t be tamed into a single narrative.”
Director Mo Harawe’s Somali-European co-production “The Village Next to Paradise” had already emerged as a major buzz title well before the project scored a €20,000 ($21,700) grant. Industry attendees were taken by the family drama’s evocation of the Somali desert – a pocket of the world all too rarely depicted on screen – and showered particular praise on the film’s photography, supplied by DP Mostafa El Kashef. Sabine Moser and Oliver Neumann (“Great Freedom”) produce.
Rounding the post-production winners, director Mia Bendrimia’s personal doc “The Magma” weaves together family secrets and national trauma, following the France-born director back to her family’s ancestral home in Algeria, where she is forced to confront personal apprehensions and unearth buried truths. Produced by Kira Simon-Kennedy, the film received $10,800 in post-production funds.
On the development side, top honors went to Dima Hamdan’s “Amniesia,” which explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the guise of an espionage thriller, rife with moral questions. A veteran journalist and self-taught filmmaker, Hamdan spent a decade with the BBC Arabic and BBC World Service and has teamed with producer Toni Copti for this debut feature. Receiving $32,621 in development support, the project follows an Israeli undercover agent, beset with amnesia in Palestinian territory.
Other development winners include “The Camel Driving School” from director Halima Ouardiri and producer Margaux Juvénal, “The Passion of Aline” from director Rokhaya Marieme Balde and producer Chantal Scheiner, and “Hold Time for Me,” from director Fradique and producer Laura Kloeckner. Rounding out the prizes, filmmaker Sammy Baloji’s Pasolini-inspired “Il Padre Salvaggio” snagged the Artekino International prize to the tune of $6,500.
Capping an edition marked with a bulked-up co-production market and marred by heartbreak for the ongoing situation in then Middle East, many of this year’s winners voiced solidarity with the Palestinian people when collecting the night’s awards, with “The Magma” director Mia Bendrimia and producer Kira Simon-Kennedy even promising to share some of their prize money with Palestinian filmmakers.
In fact, “Amnesia” director Dima Hamdan never even made it to Marrakech, as the Palestinian filmmaker opted not to attend in person given the difficult circumstances. Hamdan’s absence lent her acceptance speech, delivered in absentia, an even greater charge.
“The joy and happiness we feel today are eclipsed by the sorrow and anger we feel when we think of our brothers and sisters in Gaza,” she wrote. “The relentless violence of the Israeli occupation casts a dark shadow over our celebration today.”
Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Oct. 7 killed 1,200 people with around 240 others taken hostage. Since then, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 14,800 people have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory campaign, including about 6,000 children.
“Today, any film we watch, any book we read, even the bread we eat feels like an undeserved privilege when our people are being killed and starved,” she continued. “But this award is a reminder that we are not powerless, and that we can (and we will) tell our people’s story to the world. This award does not only support us as a team, its impact will resonate beyond these walls.”