ÉCU – The European Independent Film Festival – has always been a huge proponent of the discovery and celebration of not only European but global independent filmmaking. Throughout the 15 years that we have now existed in the world of indie cinema, we have been consistently impressed by the calibre, diversity and quantity of film submissions that we have received from the Arab region. In fact, the indubitable filmic talent which has been flourishing in the area pushed us to create an award as part of our festival, The Ahmed Khedr Award for Excellence in Arab Filmmaking, which is dedicated to outstanding cinematographic talent emerging from the region.
Founded in 2013, the award was established during the 8th edition of ÉCU in memory of the late Ahmed Khedr, a talented producer and director at MBC’s 03 Productions in Dubai who worked in the industry for many years, including producing a film with ÉCU’s President Scott Hillier. During its inaugural year, we shone a well-deserved beam on the six talented independent Arab directors who constituted our Arab Special Selection, a concrete validation of our commitment to increased diversity and multiculturalism in the films which we celebrate. This cherished tradition of ours has continued to the present day and the award has become one of our most sought after accolades.
In demonstrating our strong support of Arab filmmakers and their creative talents, we simultaneously express our commitment to the diffusion of their unique, rending tales which can be told by no other voices but theirs. Sam Kadi, the talented director of Little Gandhi – the 2016 Ahmed Khedr award-winning film – says, “This [award] is not for me, this is for 500 thousand victims, Syrian victims who lost their lives. This is for the 12 million displaced people. This is for the 400 thousands prisoners. This is for over half a million injured people. Little Ghandi was a story of a nation and Little Ghandi was a symbol that we wanted to bring to you.”
The films which constituted the Arab Special Selection as part of our 2017 Official Selection emerged as an especially sensitive, poignant and profound series of filmic odes to a variety of pertinent themes, from mental health and ancestral ties to war and petty crime. That year, four stunning films comprised our stunning Arab Special Selection: Dalia Musaad’s poignant portrayal of a loving yet doleful mother-son relationship in The Boy Who Cried Fish, Sama Waham’s strikingly poetic quest into her ancestral lineage in Sing For Me, Hassanein Khazaal’s portrait of the modern, young Iraqi man in Last Seen and Hisham Sharafeddine’s witty take on a modern city’s corruption in Night-Shift.
ÉCU’s Excellence in Arab Filmmaking award gives us the opportunity to dedicatedly showcase the best crop of the creative and innovative films that we receive from the region. We are always tremendously excited to share these indie gems with our ever expanding audience so that not only can the films which win this prestigious award gain a huge surge in recognition, but also so that we can present our audience with a wider, more eclectic understanding is what indie filmmaking truly is.