Middle East Now, the international festival that aims to introduce the most contemporary cultures and societies of the Middle East to an ever-growing audience, came to a successful close on Sunday night. The festival's triumph is undeniable and the city of Florence looks forward to the event -- formerly held in the spring, and now always a fall must attend -- year after year. Audiences are packed, films and events are sold out and at the end, some films even walk away with coveted prizes.
We love Middle East Now because it offers a perspective that tries to go beyond the prejudices and clichés the western world seems to have about the Region and with which often they are represented, through a multiform program of events, including cinema, documentaries, art, exhibitions, music, food, meetings and cultural projects.
After all was said and done, there were many winners on October 9th, including Iranian cinema and a Jordanian favorite by Zaid Abu Hamdan.
This 13th edition of Middle East Now was held from 4 to 9 October 2022 at Cinema la Compagnia, Cinema Stensen, Museo Novecento Firenze and other locations throughout the Renaissance city, while also simultaneously being on the platform La Compagnia/MYMOVIES for those who could not attend in person.
The "Middle East Now AUDIENCE AWARD 2022", for best film voted by the public, went to Daughters of Abdulrahman (Jordan, 2021, 112′) an extraordinary first feature film by the director Zaid Abu Hamdan, the Italian premiere at the festival, which obviously thrilled the audience of this edition.
The "Iran and Afghanistan 2022 Cinema Award", awarded in memory of the late Felicetta Ferraro, went to Along the Way (Iran, Turkey, 2022 80') by Dutch director Mijke de Jong, a film starring 19-year-old Afghan twins Zahra and Fatimah, who lose their family on the border between Turkey and Iran, and have to survive in a hostile world of smugglers and drug dealers while facing choices and dilemmas that strain their relationship and conscience.
The "Best OFF Award" for best short film given by OFF Cinema went to Beirut Dreams in Color (Egypt, Lebanon 2022, 28') by Michael Collins. The jury provided this reason: “For the courage to tell a difficult and necessary story in this historical moment. We have chosen to award a documentary that tells the evolution and struggle of the LGBT + community in the Middle East over the last decade, with great delicacy and empathy, through the painful but at the same time joyful lens of one of the best musical bands in the region." Furthermore, OFF Cinema, wanted to assign a "Best OFF Special Mention" to The Barter (Iran, 2021, 20') by Ziba Karamali and Emad Araad, which in their words was "a portrait of an intimate family - which in many ways could take place anywhere in the world - offers a powerful reflection on secrecy, the truth (or truths) and the fear of being exposed, at a particularly important moment for Iran ”.
The "BEST SHORT Staff Award" is given to the best short or medium-length film and is awarded by the festival staff. At this edition the prize went to the beautiful Warsha by Dania Bdeir (Lebanon, France, 2022, 16').
At this 13th edition, the festival also awarded, extraordinarily, a "Middle East Now Special Mention" -- this special mention assigned by the artistic direction and the selection committee, which went to World War III by Houman Seyyedi (Iran, 2022, 107'). The motivation was as follows: "for the originality of a subject capable of broadening the horizon of a private history, which becomes an instrument of universal understanding of the balance of power between men, and of compassion towards the moral implications that it entails Because perhaps, never as today, it is necessary for fiction, and therefore cinema, to take charge of the story of an increasingly unreal and unjust present on a global level, speaking aloud, just like Houman Seyyedi does in his beautiful film."
For more information, check out the Middle East Now website.