Female Arab Filmmakers Getting Grant Assistance From Netflix

Last year, Netflix pledged to support “more perspectives behind the camera” as a way to create “better representation” in front of that camera. The streaming giant earmarked money for the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity to support underrepresented voices in filmmaking.

As part of that effort, the streamer announced this week that it will partner with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) to offer a $250,000 grant to Arab female filmmakers.

The five projects receiving the award all feature women producers or directors, who hail from Morocco, Lebanon and Tunisia.

The documentary The Mother of All Lies, directed and produced by Asmae El Moudir, chronicles the 1981 Bread Riots in Morocco, blending the director’s family story with the important event and examining how it impacts contemporary society.

A fiction project, Sarra Abidi’s My Name Is Clara, tells the story of Ayda, a call center operator living a repetitive, lonely life who realizes that perhaps life isn’t what it seems. Abidi is Tunisian.

The other three projects, all fiction, come from Lebanese filmmakers. Producer Tania El Khoury’s Manity examines the relationship between a father and his 11-year-old son when they go bird hunting. Producer Jana Wehbe’s The Day Vladimir Died tells the story of an elderly man who frequents funerals but soon finds an unexpected death notice in the newspaper. And Diala Kachmar’s From The Other Shore follows a pair of close friends, one of whom is blind and the other who uses a wheelchair, as they navigate life.

Netflix also collaborated with AFAC on a $1 million hardship fund created in 2020 to support Arab crew and freelancers in the film and TV industry during the pandemic. They expanded the fund in 2021 after awarding nearly 250 grants in Lebanon in 2020, as part of Netflix’s $150 million fund to assist creative communities impacted by the pandemic worldwide.

The latest grant also coincides with Netflix’s increased focus on globalization, which means not just pushing U.S.-made content into other countries but also expanding content to include originals from around the world. Netflix bowed its first Arabic series, Jinn, in 2019, and has more than three dozen Arabic films in its catalog. Last year’s Al Rawabi School For Girls, from Tima Shomali, a Jordanian director, featured an all-female cast.

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