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  • The Young Saudi Film Festival Heralds a New Generation of Filmmakers

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    On Sunday, February 18 the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival (YSFF) at the Harmony Gold Preview House in Hollywood, California. In the festival’s first year, the goal was to provide Saudi filmmakers a space to screen their work. This year the festival grew in audience and scope, receiving over 80 submissions and featuring eight outstanding films that told stories ranging from comedy to tragedy. With the ban on movie theaters lifted in Saudi Arabia it is a great time to showcase the next generation of Saudi filmmakers.

    The highly anticipated event was well attended by internationals and locals alike including NYFA students and alumni, local Saudi community members, producer and film distributor Diane Taren, and representatives from the Kuwaiti and Emirati consulates.

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alumnus, Maan bin Abdulrahman of Prince of Arabia Entertainment, hosted the evening. He introduced Director of NYFA Los Angeles, Dan Mackler who, in his opening remarks, emphasized how storytelling is a universal means of uniting different cultures, “The New York Film Academy believes that storytelling unites us internationally, across cultures and through perceived differences. We’re very proud of the films we’re screening tonight because they exemplify those ideals.”

    President of the YSFF, Rakan Anneghaimshi (Spring 2016 BFA Acting for Film), spoke briefly to the audience thanking everyone who made the event possible and congratulating the participants on their hard work. Finally, NYFA Instructor and one of the judges of the competition, James Rowe, addressed the audience.

    In a moving speech, Rowe detailed his experience as one of the members of the selection committee. “Submissions to this festival have come from all over the world. We were looking for stories and perspectives that surprised us and left us feeling something long after the credits had rolled.”

    Rowe attributed the great stories coming out of Saudi Arabia to a need humans have to share their experiences. “Great art is born out of urgency,” Rowe began. “There is a burning need to tell stories that have gone untold for some time. There exists a desire to express ideas that have remained unspoken.”

    Rowe concluded, “One of the true joys I get from teaching at the New York Film Academy is teaching students to discover that they do have something unique and personal to say right now. All of the films here tonight, clearly have something to say. They are a reminder that art captivates and compels us most when it feels urgent; as if the artist couldn’t have waited one more moment to tell us their story.”

    Following the screenings, there was a Q and A session with the filmmakers who joined Maan bin Abdulrahman on the stage to take questions from the audience. The first question went to filmmaker Yassin Koptan (Filmmaking, 2014). His film, Piece of Wood, follows skateboarders in Egypt and the discrimination they face. He was asked what the skateboard in his film symbolized. “It’s a symbol for resistance,” he responded. “It’s a symbol for unity. It’s a symbol for fighting for what’s rightfully yours.”

    Maan bin Abdulrahman wanted to know how filmmaker Meshaal Al Jaser (Screenwriting, 2019) was able to pull such a captivating performance from a child actor. In his film, Under Concrete, a Syrian girl relives instances from her life while buried under rubble following the bombing of her home. “All of the actors were Syrian. They were already heartbroken. They felt it more than I ever could.”

    President Anneghaimshi wrapped up the Q&A stating, “We try, as much as possible, to reflect society as we see it,” he began. “We want to see the authentic stories coming out of our community. One of the goals of the YSFF was to help bring our global community together. We had comedic films, we had dramatic films, and we had family-oriented films. I couldn’t be more proud.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank all of the participants, the audience, and the Young Saudi Film Festival for allowing us to take part in such a special and momentous evening.

    Bloodline written and directed by Saud Al-Moghirah, produced by Javier Olmo

    Coexistence by Musab Alamri

    Hero Complex written and directed by Mohamad AlYamani, produced by Mohamad AlYamani and Douglas Spain

    The Nostalgia written by Sarah Lotfy, directed and produced by Moataz Badran

    Piece of Wood by Yassin Koptan

    The Scapegoat written by Charlie H. Millen & Stephen Ranieri, directed by Talha B., produced by Maan B.

    Spirit of North by Mohammad Ali Almarhabi

    Under Concrete by Meshal Al Jaser

     

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    March 2, 2018 • Community Highlights, Film Festivals • Views: 2459

  • The Scapegoat Screens at Dubai International Film Festival & Young Saudi Film Festival

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    With award season upon us, we’re always excited to hear from our alumni around the world as they find success screening their work. New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking graduates Talha (“B.”) Bin Abdulrahman and Maan Bin Abdulrahman have already seen their NYFA thesis film, The Scapegoat, celebrated at the Middle East’s leading film festival, the 14th Dubai International Film Festival. There, it was an official selection. 

    The short was an official selection at the following other festivals:

    • The Irvine International Film Festival
    • Orlando Film Festival
    • San Antonio Film Festival
    • Chandler Film Festival

    The Scapegoat continues its momentum as an official selection at the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, screening at NYFA Los Angeles Feb. 18.

    Talha B. was able to take some time during his busy festival schedule to tell the NYFA Blog a bit more about his experience directing The Scapegoat.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey in filmmaking and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    TBA: Let me just start this by saying that I feel incredibly fortunate to be a filmmaker. After graduating from high school almost nine years ago, I have gone through several academic paths before I found out that my real passion is filmmaking, which is how I ended up at NYFA — a decision that changed the course of my life, for the better.

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most about the medium?

    TBA: Ever since I was a kid, I was a big fan of watching and talking about films. I believe filmmaking is a format that contains a beautiful package of many different art forms, to tell stories that provoke emotional responses from viewers from all over the world. I always found that inspiring and compelling.

    NYFA: Can you tell us more about your film The Scapegoat? What is the story, and what about the project grabbed you?  

    TBA: The Scapegoat is a 22-minute short I directed as my thesis project for the New York Film Academy’s BFA filmmaking program. The Scapegoat is about Paul Dugan, a former best-selling author who is in search of his next novel. Feeling the pressure to live up to his earlier success, he shelters himself in an isolated cabin in the woods to confront his internal demons.

    Every creative person goes through some [form of] writer’s block, so the story was appealing to me, to represent that visually by telling this story. A creative mind can be its own worst critic, because it is continuously working — especially when there is too much pressure and a lot at stake.

    To not do a project that deals with this topic would be madness.

    NYFA: Were there any surprises or challenges along the way during production, and how did you adapt?

    TBA: I’ve never directed a project that involved a single actor playing multiple roles all at once. In this case it was four distinct characters.

    It was quite the brain teaser to think of all the factors in each scene we shot, from camera blocking to hair and makeup. It required an extra level of planning and coordination between every single person working on set.

    I believe the biggest challenge I faced was when I learned that my actor’s body double refused to shave his facial hair to match the lead actor changing between character looks. Luckily enough, two talented performers stepped in to save the day.

    The critical lesson overall for me was to believe in your crew, because it takes a village to make a film — no matter how big, or small.

    NYFA: Congratulations on screening The Scapegoat at the Dubai International Film Festival! What was this experience like?

    TBA: Thank you, it was a pleasant experience. My producer Maan B. attended on behalf of myself and the team. The film was positively received by the audience, which is something I was delighted to hear.

    NYFA: What advice can you share with our students when it comes to applying to a major festival like the Dubai International Film Fest?  

    TBA: Just one piece of advice that one of my instructors had shared with me, which is to be one of the first people who apply to the festival. Sometimes it’s good to be early, for your film to be noticed.

    NYFA: What is next for The Scapegoat?

    TBA: More festivals will pick it up, hopefully.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

    TBA: Excited about directing a feature with a working title of The Alien.

    It is a stylized dramedy following the story of an unworldly immigrant who dares to go after his dream as an artist, despite the harsh reality he faces. It will be a collaboration with the same talented writers and producer behind The Scapegoat.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Talha, Maan and The Scapegoat team on their success! To see The Scapegoat (along with seven other excellent selections) at the Young Saudi Film Festival Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., please RSVP here.

     

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  • New York Film Academy to Host Second Annual Young Saudi Film Festival

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Los Angeles recently announced the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival (YSFF), which is slated for Feb. 18, 2018, at the Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset Boulevard. A showcase of recent Saudi films, YSFF is currently accepting submissions from filmmakers.

    Director of NYFA Los Angeles Dan Mackler greets YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi.

    “Last year Saudi filmmakers didn’t have any theaters where they could show their films and creative productions. With hope and consistent effort, cinema is now back again in Saudi Arabia,” said YSFF President and NYFA student Rakan Anneghaimshi (Spring 2016 BFA Acting). “Our goal since Abdulaziz Almutari (YSFF Vice President, Fall 2015 MFA Cinematography) and I started YSFF was to have a platform to link filmmakers to each other so they can exchange experiences, knowledge, and connections. It’s going to be the same case this year.”

    Last year’s screening was attended by over 300 guests and presented eight short films. NYFA alum Maan bin Abdulrahman of Prince of Arabia Entertainment hosted the event and moderated a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers, which included Saudi Arabian filmmaker, Meshal Al Jaser (NYFA Fall 2016 BFA Screenwriting).

    Regarding this year’s festival, Director of NYFA’s Los Angeles campus Dan Mackler said, “As an international film school and home to many Saudi Arabian alumni and students, the New York Film Academy is very happy with Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen theaters. We share Rakan’s excitement for this second event and expect it to surpass last year’s impact on bringing talented filmmakers to light.”

    While the festival focuses on the work of Saudi filmmakers, submissions from around the world will be considered, particularly those from Gulf and Arab states. A panel of NYFA faculty will select eight short films between five and 20 minutes long for the showcase. Judges include film star Miraj Grbic (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”), actress and comedienne Suzanne Kent (“Taxi,” The Groundlings), cinematographer Anthony Richmond, ASC, BSC (“Don’t Look Now,” “Legally Blonde”), photographer/cinematographer Bart Mastronardi (“Tales of Poe”), director James Rowe (“Blue Ridge Fall”), and novelist Crickett Rumley (“Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell”).

    For a complete list of rules and to submit a short film, please submit via Google form here or on the NYFA Student hub. The deadline is Jan. 28th, so hurry to submit your film!

    The second annual Young Saudi Film Festival on Feb. 18 at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood promises to be an inspiring event attended by both young filmmakers and Saudi esteemed officials. It is free and open to the public. In addition to the short films and a Q&A again moderated by Maan bin Abdulrahman, the event will feature a light reception and a performance by NYFA’s Improv Troupe.

    YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi with filmmaker Meshal Al Jaser.

    Reflecting on the upcoming festival, YSFF President Anneghaimshi complimented NYFA’s continued involvement, saying, “I would like to thank Dan Mackler for his endless support and caring, and I would like also to thank Tami Alexander, Crickett Rumley, and Brian Dillon.” He also had kind words for those submitting films: “I wish all the best for all filmmakers applying to the festival.”

    To RSVP to attend the Young Saudi Film Festival on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., please RSVP here.

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