Jordan’s emerging cinematography scene is a promising one, with a diverse range of talented filmmakers and unique stories to tell. As the industry continues to grow and gain recognition, we can expect to see even more exciting and innovative films coming out of Jordan in the future.
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“Film brings understanding, and understanding brings tolerance, and tolerance brings many, many, many beautiful things – including peace,” said former executive commissioner and co-founder of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan, Samer Mouasher.
Jordan’s Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts Paves the Way for a New Era of Middle Eastern Filmmaking
The RSICA, a film school based in Aqaba, Jordan, was established in 2008 through a collaboration between the Royal Film Commission of Jordan and the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.
Its creation was influenced by King Abdullah’s recognition of the need for increased local film production and the lack of resources for visual media in the region. Even Steven Spielberg was involved in bringing the RSICA to life, reflecting the school’s global significance.
Mr. Mouasher highlighted that the Middle East boasts a rich and diverse cultural heritage, with storytelling traditions that date back centuries. However, there is a scarcity of contemporary films from the region.
“In establishing this institute we will draw from a diverse and vast pool of cultures and experiences, to offer a more complete idea and multifaceted perspective to the viewer, and the world audience,” pointed out Samer Anis Mansour Mouasher, founder and chairman of the Red Sea Institute for Cinematic (2007-2014).
The faculty at RSICA has been drawn from professionals from various industries, arts, and academic institutions worldwide. The institute admits students from a diverse pool of talented applicants originating from the Middle East and North Africa giving them training in the use of the latest technologies in filmmaking and production. The first batch of students was enrolled in September 2008, and the first graduation took place in June 2010. RSICA has since celebrated the graduation of classes in 2011 and 2012.
The program is intensive, with small class sizes. Currently, the faculty/student ratio stands at 4 to 1. Admission to the institute is highly competitive and based on a portfolio demonstrating exceptional talent, outstanding personal expression, and strong potential for creative collaboration.
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Jordanian Contemporary Filmmakers Become Recognized Around the Globe
Naji Abu Nowar’s film “Theeb” was nominated for its first Academy Award in 2016 and won Best Foreign International Film of the Year. It also won the BAFTA Film Award for Outstanding Debut by a Director and the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Narrative Film at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, highlighting the exceptional nature of its achievement.
After winning numerous international festival awards, Amin Matalqa’s “Captain Abu Raed” received the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Additionally, the film made history as Jordan’s first-ever submission for an Oscar nomination.
Zain Duraie is a female voice of Jordanian contemporary cinematography whose movies are inspired by her surroundings and used as a medium that educates the viewers. Zain, through her film “Horizon”, sheds light on the issues of gender equality and women’s rights by presenting a patriarchal society where an uneducated woman’s husband tries to withdraw their children from school to help him with work.
The film has been showcased at numerous international film festivals and won the Audience Choice Award at the Franco-Arab Film Festival in 2013. Zain’s work has gained worldwide recognition, and her unique perspective sets her apart from other filmmakers, as she considers herself a pro-equalist.
After winning the Best International Feature award at the Manhattan Film Festival and the Jury Special Award at the Malmo Arab Film Festival in 2011 for her film “A 7 Hour Difference”, Deema Amr takes her audience on a journey to the intricate world of love in the Arab world.
The protagonist of the film, Dalia, resides in the U.S. and travels to Amman to attend her sister’s wedding. Unexpectedly, her boyfriend Jason shows up to propose to her, but there’s a catch: her family doesn’t know about their relationship, and as with any Arab girl, complications are bound to arise.
Najwa Najjar, a film writer, director, and documentary filmmaker, is renowned for portraying themes of resistance and survival, and for challenging stereotypes about the Arab world. She presents these themes in a transparent and simplified way to represent her roots.
Her critically acclaimed films, including “Yasmine’s Song”, “Eyes of a Thief”, and “Pomegranates and Myrrh”, have won 10 international awards and have been screened at over 80 international festivals.
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Jordanian Film Festivals with a Long Tradition and Loyal Audience
The European Film Festival (EUFF) is the longest-running foreign film festival in Jordan, which celebrated its 34th edition last year. In addition to film screenings, the festival features a Mobile Film Competition, organized in cooperation with SAE Institute Amman, that includes workshops & sessions with people working in the filmmaking industry, all free of charge. The EUFF is funded by the European Union to Jordan.
The Amman International Film Festival – Awal Film (AIFF) is dedicated to showcasing first-time achievements in global cinema, with a particular emphasis on Arab films. Apart from its screening program, which highlights the inventive and powerful use of film as a medium, the AIFF also features an industry-focused component called Amman Film Industry Days (AFID). This section is designed for established filmmakers and includes market and pitching platforms.
Jordan Short Film Festival (JSFF) was established as an art film festival to provide a platform for indie filmmakers in Jordan and the Arab world to showcase their films while keeping up with the latest developments in the indie filmmaking movement worldwide. The festival is managed by the Amman Filmmakers Cooperative (AFC), a film collective based in Amman, Jordan.
Famous International Films Shot in Jordan
Jordan has also been the filming location for many popular movies, including “The Mummy Returns”, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “The Hurt Locker”, and “Incendies”, among others.
The classics “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) and “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade” (1989) were also filmed in Jordan. The more recent blockbusters shot in Jordan include “Dune: Part One” (2021), “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (2019), “Aladdin” (2019), “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2017), “The Martian” (2015), “Queen of the Desert” (2015), and “Prometheus” (2012).
Jordan’s growing film industry has been gaining international recognition in recent years. The country has a rich history and culture, providing a unique backdrop for filmmakers to tell compelling stories.