DIFF, Screen International unveil five Arab stars of tomorrow

Kicking off the first day of the 13th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) with a celebration of regional success, five of the most talented and promising young stars from across the Middle East were selected today as part of the inaugural ‘Arab Stars of Tomorrow’, an initiative launched by the festival in partnership with Screen International.

The initiative flags ‘ones to watch’ and helps boost their profile on a global level as part of DIFF’s key commitments to supporting the growth and development of the Arab film industry.

The ‘Arab Stars of Tomorrow’ have been curated and selected by Screen International’s Middle East correspondent Melanie Goodfellow, with input from Asia Editor Liz Shackleton and Fionnuala Halligan, Chief Critic and Reviews editor.

To help raise their profile, each of the five Arab Stars of Tomorrow will be featured in the Festival’s Screen Daily publication, distributed to the thousands of industry representatives that attend DIFF each year.

In addition, the five talents will be featured in Screen’s weekly print edition, which is distributed to a global film industry readership, and also on Screendaily.com

Screen International is one of the most respected industry publications in the world and known for their talent-spotting prowess thanks to successful scouting via their UK Stars of Tomorrow initiative, which is now in its 13th year.

For ‘Arab Stars of Tomorrow’, Screen International shortlisted five actors and directors who have already made a significant impact in their field with promise of much more to come.

The first finalist of the impressive selection is Lebanese director Mounia Akl, whose directing ability really shines in her most recent film ‘Submarine’, a story of a world drowning in rubbish.

The film’s accomplished image and intriguing narrative grasps the attentions of its audiences and captured the interest of the Screen International team. ‘Submarine’ will be showcasing at DIFF as part of the renowned Muhr Shorts category and is meant as a precursor to a feature length film.

Tunisian artist and actress Mariam El Ferjani is set to catch the audience’s attention as lead role in Kaouther Ben Henia’s upcoming film ‘Beauty and The Dogs’, which is currently in post-production and set to hit the festival circuit in 2017.

Playing a young woman who is sexually assaulted by the police, El Ferjani adds her own special touch to the role with a performance that grounds the film as she brings real power to her character.

Jordanian director Amjad Al-Rasheed has been selected for his and Darin J. Sallam film ‘The Parrot’, which is hosting its world premiere at the Festival as part of the Muhr Shorts programme.

Composed of beautiful shots, the film is aesthetically a work of art and features a captivating storyline humour that also gives the film a quirky vibe.

Samer Ismail, who is renowned within the Arab world for his roles on television, impresses audiences with his film debut in Ali Mosafa’s ‘The Worthy’.

Conveying a dark psychopathic character with conviction, Ismail’s outstanding acting abilities are hard to ignore. Delivering a strong performance, Ismail’s role in ‘The Worthy’ is likely to mark the beginning of a prosperous and varied future for the Syrian actor.

Completing the handpicked slate of talented Arab Stars of Tomorrow is Moroccan filmmaker Alaa Eddine Aljem whose continued hard work and artistic talent is reflected in his award-winning film ‘Les poisson du desert’. Recognized by fellow industry professionals as the most promising filmmaker of his generation in Morocco, Eljeem is currently developing his debut short ‘Saint Inconnu’ at Sundance.

Matt Mueller, editor of Screen International, commented on the first-ever edition: “I am delighted to unveil our very first line-up of Arab Stars of Tomorrow, and to be partnering with DIFF on this initiative. Our UK Stars of Tomorrow has talent-spotted a host of actors and film-makers who have gone on to become household names, and I believe that Arab Stars of Tomorrow will be able to offer a similar international platform for launching outstanding regional talent to industry and audiences around the world.”

Shivani Pandya, DIFF Managing Director, added: “Since DIFF’s inception in 2004, the Festival has continued its commitment to providing an international platform to support and promote Arab talent. This is an exciting time for DIFF as the collaboration with Screen International, who are renowned for their talent-spotting ability, will provide an unmatched opportunity to raise the profile some of the most talented and deserving individuals in the region today. I congratulate all of the shortlisted individuals and no doubt look forward to seeing their work at future Festivals.”

Launched 13 years ago from the United Kingdom, Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow - which was presented at the BFI London Film Festival for the first time last year – has an unrivalled track record in identifying up-and-coming British and Irish talent.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Emily Blunt and James McAvoy were all selected for the very first edition in 2004. Subsequent Screen Stars of Tomorrow have included Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne, Carey Mulligan, Tom Hiddleston, Robert Pattinson, John Boyega and filmmakers Andrew Haigh, Andrea Arnold, Corin Hardy and Stephen Fingleton.

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