In the wake of the Arab Spring and rising international interest in the Arab world, this year’s 7th edition of San Sebastián’s Cinema in Motion is generating particularly high expectations, especially amongst sales agents. The sidebar, organized in conjunction with the Amiens and Fribourg festivals, showcases rough cuts of films from Portuguese- speaking Africa, Maghreb and Gulf countries, and offers 7 post-production awards, including 35mm blowup and sound mixing. This year’s four films reflect the sense of hope and change currently sweeping through the Arab world. Lebanese husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas - whose debut feature, I Want to See (2008) transported Catherine Deneuve into war torn Lebanon - will present Une Fusee dans le ciel about the little- known 1960s Lebanese space program. “The film focuses on dreaming and utopia, not as nostalgia but as a form of action,” explains Hadjithomas. The film begins with archive images from 1960-67, followed by present-day scenes as an 8-metre life size replica is wheeled through the streets, to the astonishment of onlookers. “At first people thought it was a missile rather than a rocket. Filming coincided with the Arab Spring - it was emotionally very strong.” Confession and Struggle, by 39-year old Eliane Raheb, brings together a Lebanese war criminal and a bereaved mother, both seeking redemption. “Stories about redemption are usually produced by foreigners e.g. involving an Israeli or American soldier,” explains Raheb.“But we have to look in the mirror before we can accuse others.
” Raheb is particularly interested in screening the film in Spain given what she views to be common links with Arab culture – in terms of family structure and a past history of bloody civil war. 33-year old Palestinian-Jordanian Yahya Alabdallah’s debut feature The Last Friday is a black comedy about a Jordanian man who loses his job and then risks losing his masculinity if he can’t find the money for testicle surgery. “I’m interested in exploring tiny details that enable us to laugh at reality - laugh at our own small disasters,” Alabdallah explains - citing inspirations such as Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, Palestinian director Elia Suleiman and Turkish helmer Nuri Bilge Ceylan. US-trained Annemarie Jacir is following her debut feature Salt of the Sea – that premiered at Cannes and won the Fipresci Critics’ Prize in 2008 – with 1960s-set When I Saw You, about Palestinian refugees arriving in Jordan. “I began this project because I was in search of some hope and wanted to explore a period which had a great influence for me and Palestine - politically, socially and culturally. Things have veered in such a negative direction, I think I needed to stop and back up.” Jacir explains. “This is an important moment for the whole Arab world and of course for cinema too! It’s a time of great change.”