44th CINEMED fest to Fête Simone Bitton & Abdellatif Kéchiche

5 October, 2022



Jordan Elgrably


Just as live events, includ­ing con­certs and com­e­dy shows, were dead in the water due to Covid for the longest time, cin­e­ma found itself an endan­gered species. Movie the­atres were emp­ty for near­ly two years and these days are typ­i­cal­ly at 30% capac­i­ty — in Europe at any rate — so film­mak­ers not only strug­gle to obtain fund­ing and get their pic­tures pro­duced, they also rely more and more on video-on-demand sales, so that their work can find an audi­ence. While on the face of it, this affords greater demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­tri­b­u­tion (more peo­ple are con­nect­ed to the net these days because of the pan­dem­ic), the beau­ty of cin­e­ma is still to be found sit­ting in an expan­sive hall, filled with oth­er moviegoers.

Let’s face it, watch­ing on the small screen or a hand­held device has shrunk our world, and has endan­gered the 7th art.

Fran­co-Moroc­can direc­tor Simone Bit­ton and Fran­co-Tunisian direc­tor Abdel­latif Kéchiche,

This is why I become so ani­mat­ed at the advent of attend­ing a film fes­ti­val, and the 44th annu­al CINEMED in Mont­pel­li­er just held its first press con­fer­ence this morn­ing, dis­cussing the ros­ter of films and film­mak­ers (dozens) to be pre­sent­ed from the 21st to the 29th of Octo­ber. Among the film­mak­er ret­ro­spec­tives will be screen­ings devot­ed to French-Moroc­can doc­u­men­tar­i­an Simone Bit­ton and Fran­co-Tunisian direc­tor Abdel­latif Kéchiche, as well as Span­ish direc­tor Icíar Bol­lain. Bit­ton, a renowned paci­fi­cist, is Arab and Jew­ish and has devot­ed much of her career to under­dogs includ­ing the Pales­tini­ans, and to sup­port­ing Mus­lim-Jew­ish entente.

CINEMED, for those unfa­mil­iar with it, screens a broad range of movies from around the Mediter­ranean and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, includ­ing much of south­ern Europe, the Mid­dle East and North Africa. It is a tru­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic and inter­cul­tur­al event, over­flow­ing with cin­e­mat­ic gems.

I first attend­ed CINEMED in 2017, when the cen­tral focus of the fes­ti­val was Alge­ria and its cinéastes. I had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see films that I like­ly would not have eas­i­ly found in local the­atres, and spoke with a hand­ful of younger direc­tors, among them Amel Bli­di, Sofia Dja­ma, Damien Ouniri, Lyes Salem and Karim Mous­saoui. “The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty has been tak­ing notice of Algeria’s film pro­duc­tion since the Black Decade offi­cial­ly end­ed,” I wrote at the time. “Sev­er­al direc­tors have claimed that they became film­mak­ers out of an almost dire need to share Alger­ian sto­ries with the world.”

Apart from Bit­ton and Abdel­latif, oth­er Arab film­mak­ers who will attend CINEMED dur­ing the screen­ings of their films include Mou­nia Med­dour, Rachi­da Brakni, Ramzi Ben Sli­man, Erige Sehiri, Rachid Bouchareb and Roschdy Zem. Sev­er­al screen­ings will be avant-premières.

“We have got to advo­cate for cul­ture,” Montpellier’s may­or, Michel Delafos­se, insist­ed at this morning’s press con­fer­ence. A strong sup­port­er of build­ing cul­tur­al bridges, he added:  “It’s incon­ceiv­able to fear oth­ers; on the con­trary, we’ve got to come towards them.” Delafos­se crit­i­cized the illib­er­al and xeno­pho­bic poli­cies of Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Vik­tor Orban, while anoth­er speak­er on the dais, Leolu­ca Orlan­do, called out Italy’s expect­ed new prime min­is­ter, the extreme rightwinger Gior­gia Mel­oni, when he said that, “There’s a prob­lem in our time with free­dom, and this our chance to sup­port it.” Orlan­do, the for­mer may­or of Paler­mo, is this year’s guest pres­i­dent of CINEMED. 

Vis­it the CINEMED site for details, and if you’re in Mont­pel­li­er this sea­son, I look for­ward to see­ing you in a movie the­atre, soon.



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