I recently sat down with the Co-Festival Director Reham Alsamerai:
Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?
Reham Alsamerai: As of 2015 Green Caravan, which up until that point was focused mainly on environmental films, launched a new section for Middle Eastern shorts. This is was during our London edition and we felt it was a good opportunity to give exposure to up and coming filmmakers from the Middle East, and to give the London audience access to these stories that might otherwise not get told to them. Filmmakers from the Middle East region suffer from a lack of support and weak infrastructure, not that this deters their creativity, but what it does is make everything much harder than it should be. Taking their films with us to multiple platforms where the reception is overwhelmingly positive means that we are helping in our own little way in ensuring that there is a future for filmmaking in the region.
Matthew: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?
Reham: This year we are taking a batch of films on a Gulf Tour, multiple cities and multiple venues. In each place we’re screening a programme of Middle Eastern shorts as well as a feature film or documentary. Later in the year we go back to London for another run- 3 to 4 days of social and environmental films including a selection of Middle Eastern shorts.
Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?
Reham: When it comes to shorts, they have to be succinct, impactful, and stylistically impressive. With environmental features and documentaries, we look for films that don’t come across as sensationalist, that tell stories seldom heard before, and of course that are well crafted and can hold an audience’s gaze.
Matthew: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?
Reham: Happy faces, angry faces, shocked faces, teary-eyed faces.
When someone comes up to me after a screening and says something that starts with “I never knew…” or “thank you” or “what can I do about…”
When we know that we have changed someone’s perception of or perspective on something, that makes it all worthwhile.
Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?
Reham: The festival began as a local event meant to raise local levels of awareness about environmental topics. It is now a traveling festival showcasing films of environmental as well as social relevance, and includes a section dedicated to short films from the Middle East.
Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?
Reham: Within the themes we cover: balance, honesty and creativity.
Matthew: How is the film scene in your city?
Reham: In Kuwait city where I’m from and where the festival is headquartered, there isn’t a film ‘scene’ per se. There is a handful of filmmakers all working tirelessly to get their work produced. Most of the time they have to self-fund. There is excellent work being made with extremely low budgets. In neighbouring countries there are multi-million funds available to filmmakers every year, but this is a concept still absent in Kuwait, although I am told there are plans in the pipeline for a local film fund, and I do hope it gets realised in the near future.
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to http://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.