The Goethe Institute in Cairo yesterday announced the launch of the first website to feature Arabic independent films online.
With a budget of some €80 thousand, funded by the German Ministry of Foriegn Affairs, the Goethe Institute managed to create www.arabshorts.net. The website currently host 81 short independent films from all over the Arab world, in an attempt to encourage young independent filmmakers, through networking opportunities with their counterparts in various Arab countries as well as providing more exposure to a European audience.
"It is another means, but certainly not an alternative to cinema screenings," explained Marcel Schwierin, project director of Arab Shorts and the man behind the idea, at the press conference.The initiative is more of an online network that preserves the films of young film creatorsm he added. It has two main components: one is the internet, and the other comprises nine young Arab curators who each represent an Arab country and select independent films to represent their country.
“The idea was to host films that reflect the identity of the country they represent,” explained Emad Mabrouk, Egyptian curator of the website, adding that the real challenge was to get young filmmakers to agree to upload their films onto the website. In doing so they risk potential exposure at international film festivals – the main screening venues for independent films – most of which refuse to accept films that have been featured online prior to the festival. “So we decided to feature films that were produced two years ago, thus giving filmmakers a chance to tour various film festivals before joining our website,” Mabrouk said.
The website provides alternative modes of exposure. Screening film promos while limiting full viewing of films by charging screening fees is one option that the website offers. Arab Shorts features independent films of all kinds, from documentaries to feature films, experimental and animation films, all within a time frame of 59 minutes, and all featured for up to three years on the website. The website is being launched alongside a three-day film festival which will screen the films selected by the nine curators, and will be held at the Goethe Institute in Dokki from 10 to 12 December.