BEIRUT: With the summer box office season ending, all cinephile eyes are focused on the Toronto International Film Festival, arguably one of the most critically acclaimed film festivals in the industry.
As the stars and all industry officials attended the festival, which opened its doors and dawned its red-carpet last week, so did many filmmakers from the MENA region, including Oualid Mouaness, a Lebanese filmmaker based in Los Angeles and Beirut.
Mouanness is a Sundance Screenwriting Lab alum who has directed several short films including the acclaimed “The Rifle, the Jackal, the Wolf and the Boy,” which was shortlisted for a 2017 Academy Award.
He has an accomplished history as a producer of award-winning films (Rize) and music videos for artists including David Bowie, Annie Lennox, Janet Jackson, Katie Perry, Justin Timberlake and Lana Del Rey.
This year Mouanness had his latest feature "1982" in competition at the 2019 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival and received celebratory news last night when it won the prestigious NETPAC Award.
NETPAC is a pan-Asian, worldwide film cultural organization that is considered the leading authority on Asian and pan-Asian cinema. The NETPAC award is given at select international film festivals to spotlight exceptional films and filmmaking talent across the globe.
The jury that selected the film remarked that "1982" was selected “for its adventurous, imaginative style and subtle, confident filmmaking, bravely juxtaposing and framing the universal innocence and charm of youth within harrowing historical context.”
The film, which stars an ensemble cast of young actors, is set during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon at a private school on the outskirts of Beirut, where 11-year-old Wissam tries to tell a classmate about his crush on her, and his teachers, on different sides of the political divide, try to mask their fears.
Alongside the young actors, are Lebanese thespians led by Academy Award Nominee, Nadine Labaki, Rodrigue Sleiman, Aliya Khalidi, Said Serhan (Heaven Sent), Zeina Saab De Melero and Joseph Azoury.
"1982" addresses a crucial moment in Middle East wartime history from a fresh and layered perspective, and TIFF was just the beginning of its journey.
It will next be screened in competition at the El Gouna Film Festival later in September, where it will have its Middle East premiere.
Early this year, the film was also acquired by WaZabi Films, which holds worldwide rights excluding the Middle East, and jointly represents US and Canada with Los Angeles-based sales agent Tricarico Chavez.
After receiving the award, Mouaness thanked TIFF and NETPAC for recognizing a film about such an important time in Lebanese and world history.
“This film is about the resilience of humanity and the fact that love is stronger than war. It’s as relevant today as it was in '1982,' and I’m honored by this acclaimed recognition,” Mouaness said.
The film was a huge collaborative effort and was produced by Tricycle Logic (US) in tandem with Georges Schoucair’s Beirut-based Abbout Productions (Lebanon) and Mad Dog Films (US). Additional producing entities are Barentsfilm, Boo Pictures, and Soapbox Films.
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