The director of the Malmö Arab Film Festival in Sweden, Mohamed Qabalawi, has managed to write a new history of Arab cinema in the Scandinavian region after opening markets for the distribution of Arab films in that area. The Malmö Festival has become the most important Arab film festival outside the borders of the Arab world. Every year it attracts the most important Arab films from the ocean to the Gulf, in addition to the presence of influential film personalities.
In his interview with Al Ain, Mohammed Kabalawi, the Swedish director of Palestinian descent, reveals his vision for the upcoming Malmö Film Festival, the nature of the audience he addresses, and his vision of the reality of the cinema of the Emirates at the moment.
– What is the next session of the Malmö Festival of Arab cinema?
The 9th edition of the festival will be held from 4 to 9 October and in 2017 we decided that the festival will have a new format. We have decided unanimously not to introduce new programs from 2017 to 2020, so as to have 3 years of stability, we are working on existing programs and we are developing them, and we are working to develop the public. We have formed a committee that works during the year to increase the number of people in the festival, taking weekend courses to educate on the Malmö Festival or contacting existing Arab and non-Arab societies in Malmo and its surroundings, and even in the towns of Sko county And, with some visits to schools to publicize the Malmo party.
– What is the nature of the target audience you are trying to attract? Are they Arabs or Swedes?
Since the start of the Malmö Festival in 2010, we have a clear goal: to reach the second and third generation of Arab immigrants, in addition to those living in Malmö or even in Sweden, where 165 nationalities live: the city of Malmö is characterized by multiculturalism. We are the ones who have come to Sweden for the last 20 years: our children and our children's children will be almost in a break from the Arab world and the base of orientation is that other nationalities come to watch movies and learn about Arab culture .
– What achieved the set goals for the festival 8 years ago?
Since the founding of the Malmö Festival, I believe we have achieved more than we had in our ambition: in the last 8 years we have made a leap in quality at the festival and since 2015 has become the biggest festival of Arab cinema outside the borders of Arab world. With this dream.
One of the Arab journalists living in Sweden has indicated a study that reveals that the Malmö Arab Film Festival is the most important festival in the world that shows Arab films during the year. Arab festivals in the Arab world do not show so many Arab films. We have been able to release Arab films for over 8 years and since 2014 we have created an Arab film distribution company in Sweden.
– Has the Malmö Festival succeeded in creating a new market for Arabian cinema in the Swedish theaters?
Of course, the Malmö Festival is currently an Arab film consulting company in the Scandinavian region, not only in Sweden, and we are receiving requests for information on Arab cinema from Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and we are almost the only Scandinavian country to ask questions about Arab cinema. During the eight years of publication of the Arab cinema, the opening of the Arabian cinema market, we managed to generate revenue through the cinema shows and we sold the Arabic film on Swedish television, calculated for us, and some of the major distribution interested in European films Latin American films were interested in Arab films and each year they took at least one film or two films for distribution at the level of Sweden or the Scandinavian region.
– Is there a certain quality of Arab films preferred by Swedish or Arab viewers living in Sweden?
The Swedes, who watch Arab films, are mostly fond of other cultures, are not attracted to Arabian film stars because they do not know them at all, they are more interested in the subject, in particular women's issues, whether they are Arab or cinema women. Years, there is a general tendency in Sweden to support female cinema.
– When they choose films from the Malmö Festival of Arab cinema. Do you consider geographic diversity or just check the quality of the films?
We have a choice of more than other festivals, where we choose from another production for two years, and we always say that every film presented for the first time in Sweden is a new film for us, and if the film produced two or more years can be presented in other parallel programs, but competition requires that it should not go into production for more than two years.
We are also concerned about the quality of film work, and we look at the balance between male and female directors so that there is no dominion of one part on the other, sometimes long film competitions are dominated by men , and we compensate shorts or other programs. Furthermore, because we have a fundamental objective: to offer the culture of the Arab countries, we are interested in having the most, but it is not an end for us. We are looking for geographical diversity, but if there is not a negative film, we do not show it, at least 70% of the quality.
– I was a member of the Arbitration Committee of the Arab Orion Horizons Competition at the 40th Cairo Film Festival. How do you see this experience?
I had the privilege of being a member of the jury of the Arab Film Horizons competition at the 40th session of the Cairo Film Festival, an important competition and a special session. The Cairo Film Festival is a dream for every director. Also from their experiences.
The eight films presented in the competition were carefully selected by the critic Ahmed Shawki, so the decisions of the committee were difficult due to the proximity of the film, however we received two awards for two films, Fatwa from Tunisia, for the best film. And I always say that there is a winner, but Arab film competitions, and I do not imagine there's a loser because the presence of a film in any competition with other films is a success for the film's owner, and the winner it is always the Arab cinema.
– As a cinema expert who lives in Europe. How do you see the reality of the United Arab Emirates cinema at the moment?
The cinema of the Emirates was born at the end of the seventies with individual attempts by some directors who financed their projects, obtaining short films, documentaries and a single feature film, which went well over time and were created for cinema in the Emirates. Arab.
The film of the United Arab Emirates is always present at the Malmö Arab Film Festival, has always attracted the attention of the Swedish public, there was a good demand from the public and, in my opinion, there are important directors in the United Arab Emirates and there are also important films in the last 10 years, some of which have been distributed by European companies.
The UAE cinema has also shown interest in children: in Malmö we presented Emirati films for school children, including Sayer Al Jannah and Amouri, we also presented the Dolphins in the official competition and in the second edition of the Malmö Festival in 2012, the United Arab Emirates were the guest of honor, Dubai, and before then in 2011 we organized a Panorama of the Gulf Cinema and introduced a large number of films of the Emirates.