'The Present': Producer Ossama Bawardi's Oscar diary

Philistine Films' beloved producer Ossama Bawardi shares with MIME his journey to LA to attend the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony with an Oscar-nominated short
'The Present': Producer Ossama Bawardi's Oscar diary

Ossama Bawardi is an independent producer working in Palestine and Jordan, who has been involved in the production of many masterpieces coming from the Arab world. Among them, Paradise Now by Hany Abu Assad -- the first Palestinian film to be nominated for an Academy Award, in 2006 -- Whispering Embers by Ali Nassar and Salt of this Sea by Annemarie Jacir. Salt of this Sea not only brought Bawardi and Jacir together but notably also brought together Jacir and actor Saleh Bakri for the first time in Bakri's debut film roles, launching what would become a regular and anticipated collaboration. 

In fact, on this Oscar journey, Bawardi is joined by Bakri on many of the adventures that he shares with MIME.

After joining Philistine Films in 2010, Bawardi produced many films which have gone on to win awards and represent Palestine in international film festivals. Among his more recent work Jacir’s Wajib, winner of thirty-six international awards, The Mountain by Faysal Atrash, and The Translator by Syrian filmmakers Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf. Upcoming productions that Bawardi has been involved in include the highly anticipated Huda’s Salon by Hany Abu Assad as well as Kazoz by Amira Diab and A Gaza Weekend by Basil Khalil.

During his special trip to the Academy Awards this year, where he travelled as the producer of the film The Present nominated for Best Live Action Short Film, Bawardi sent messages to Jacir, so she could relay them to the readers of MIME. And thus bring us all along for this thrilling journey. Check out MIME's review of The Present, as well as an exclusive interview with the film's star Saleh Bakri.

Friday, 16th April

Nine days until Oscar night. I’m amazed. News about The Present is all over my social media. Money well spent! #OscarCampaign

Monday, 19th April

All packed. Flight booked. Beverly Hills hotel booked. And apparently owned by a Lebanese guy. Like Palestinians, you can always find a Lebanese in any city in the world.

Tuesday, 20th April

Luggage carousel at LAX

Landed at LAX. Waiting for my luggage still. Seems mine is the only one not to arrive yet…

Update. Luggage found.

I arrived at the hotel to find Saleh anxiously waiting for me, as if we haven’t seen each other in 100 years. Nominees this year are only allowed one guest and unfortunately Annemarie won’t go to Los Angeles so Saleh is my plus one. Working together for the past sixteen years, seeing him here makes me feel right at home.

Food truck in Beverly Hills, California

We went to grab some food together. We discovered this food truck with Mexican food. Ordered quesadillas. First night in LA.

Thursday, 22nd April

View of the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean. California is much colder than I expected. Tomorrow I have to buy a sweater. Everything is closed however.  

I’m doing what one is supposed to do in LA — having meetings. The industry here works so differently than ours or the European one. It’s a totally different planet here.

Friday, 23rd April

Q & A with Farah Nabulsi, Bawardi and Bakri

We attended a private screening for The Present in Beverly Hills. Great discussion followed. Afterwards we went for dinner with a small group. Met Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania. I loved her film and am rooting for Tunisia on Sunday.

Saleh and I went back to the hotel and played chess until late. I hope I don’t wake up early again tomorrow — this jet lag is killing me.

Our tuxes have arrived.

Saturday, 24th April

Bawardi tries on his tux, with Jacir capturing it on her phone
Bakri tries on his tuxedo

I am always grateful to Italians and happy to put our Oscar looks in their care. Thanks to Joyce Pierpoline (my co-producer on Annemarie’s new film) and Eleonora Granata, Saleh and I are being dressed in beautiful tuxedoes by the amazing Domenico Vacca. Big thanks also to Victoria Trilling — wardrobe and fitting — and Waldo Sanchez — hair.

Oh yeah.

Sunday, 25th April

Red carpet ready

On our way!

Really fun night. I don't know how we got front row seats! A very strange ceremony as well. Every time they would cut to commercials, we were asked to put our masks on. And then they'd tell us to remove them when the commercial break was over. I didn't understand it. Very happy for the team of Two Distant Strangers. After the Oscar ceremony, we went to their after-party to celebrate with them.

Editor's Note: From Annemarie Jacir, founder of Philistine Films and Bawardi's spouse, came these words, after the ceremony: "Congratulations to Farah and to the team. I'm proud to have been able to support her vision and that Philistine Films could hold her up high. We honor the legacy of Palestinian artists before us. We thank those who broke down all the doors and I know the next generation will blow the roof off the damn house."

The Present can be viewed on Netflix.

Header image by Chris Pizzello/Getty Images North America

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