Ameen Nayfeh: 200 Meters succeeded because it was very personal

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Mon, 02 Nov 2020 - 04:07 GMT

File: Amin Nayfeh.

File: Amin Nayfeh.

CAIRO - 2 November 2020: El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) celebrated the success of another CineGouna Platform (CGP) alumnus through the participation of Ameen Nayfeh’s film 200 Meters in the feature narrative competition of 4th edition of the festival.

Written and directed by Ameen Nayfeh, 200 Meters is an international co-production that involves producers from Palestine, Jordan, Italy and Sweden and has just had its world premiere at the 17th Giornate degli Autori (Venice Days), an important sidebar of the Venice Film Festival. 

 

The MENA premiere of the film was hosted at GFF. 

 

It is worth noting that the film was an award-winning project, receiving the Mentor Arabia prize for Children and Youth Empowerment at the inaugural edition of CineGouna Springboard’s projects in development section.

 

 

200 Meters tells the story of Mustafa and his wife who come from two Palestinian villages, separated by a dividing wall. 

 

Although the distance between them is only 200 meters, it poses a challenge when their child is admitted to a hospital and Mustafa is prevented from crossing the security checkpoint. 

 

That is when a 200-meter journey turns into a frightening odyssey.

Without directly presenting the Palestinian issue—and through Nayfeh’s skillful adoption of hinting through many impressive clips which tell the extent of the suffering that a Palestinian experience in his land—the film represents a powerful, influential piece, touching our feelings as human beings, no matter where we came from.

Egypt Today chatted with 200 Meters director Ameen Nayfeh about his successful movie which managed to grab GFF’s Audience Award for a film exemplifying humanitarian themes (Trophy, certificate, and US $20,000) and FIPRESCI Award.

1- Tell us more about the experience of having the world premiere of your feature debut 200 Meters in a huge festival like Venice International Film Festival? What were the feedbacks? 

From the beginning I planned to participate with the movie of in a worldwide acclaimed festival. Having the world premiere of my feature debut in Venice International Film Festival which is one of the most acclaimed film festivals in the world was an obvious sign to me that my struggle will finally go out into the world. Introducing my struggle to the whole world was the main reason that pushed me to study filmmaking in the first place. I wanted to be a filmmaker to narrate our stories and talk about this injustice. I felt speechless after the official screening of the movie to the extent that cried like a child, the feedbacks of people who watched the movie in Venice Film Festival were extremely rewarding to me.

2-You chose to emphasize some Palestinian characters in 200 Meters which of them is the closest to your heart?

Well, The closest character to me is Mostafa character performed by Ali Soliman, the protagonist who was abandoned from his family exactly like me. What inspired me to draw Mostafa’s story is my mother who comes from a Palestinian village which is currently on the other side of the wall. I have always lived separated from my family even though they are only 20 minutes away, they were very near and very far at the same time. The other characters in the movie are based on my observations to the different parts of the Palestinian society. I intended to highlight the difference between Mostafa ‘s generation in terms of how he deals with the situation in comparison to the younger generation such as Kifah who is a revolutionary and not connected to reality and Rami who almost has no hope for the future. 

3- What were the major obstacles that faced you during the movie making ? 

200 Meters was an award-winning project at the first edition of CineGouna Springboard in 2017. I wrote the first draft of the movie in 2013, and for three years, no progress happened in terms of production. The journey was loaded of successes and failures to the extent that sometimes I felt that this movie is not going to be executed. Later, I managed to start shooting the film, before outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, which caught up with us in the post production phase. I was lucky because the movie editing was excuted in Egypt before the lockdown. I did the colo rcorrection, sound design, sound mixing and music on Zoom and Skype. Working via Zoom was not satisfying foe me because this since was my first feature film, so I planned to share the movie making procedures with the crew in person, not virtually.

4-After it was an award-winning project at the first edition of CineGouna Springboard in 2017, What did it mean for you having the MENA premiere of 200 Meters at the fourth edition of GFF? 

Of course it means a lot to me. GFF is one of the biggest festivals in the Arab world. In 2017 I participated in the first edition with the script of my film project. Now after four years later, I am back ,walking on the red carpet to have the MENA premiere of my movie,It’s a dazzling thing.

5-Tell more about the support El Gouna Film Festival gave you to make 200 Meters? 

Definitely El Gouna Film Festival supported me a lot. We held a number of meetings and later started the pitching of the project, all of these was very interesting and reflective. We took another award from the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. GFF support encouraged more partners to take us seriously afterwards and I met my Italian co-producer. 

6-Tell us more about behind the scenes of the movie and you relationship with actors 

It was just amazing to work with Ali Soliman because he is a great international actor who has effective solutions because of his huge experience. Soliman supported me a lot and used to push things forward, he was the reason behind choosing Gassan Abbas for the role of Abu Nidal. In fact, the name of the character was Abu Sami, but Soliman said, that his friend’s name could be Abu Nidal instead of Abu Sami. Soliman helped me in the casting procedures Since I did not have a casting director. Also German actress Anna Unterberger who played the role of Anne was recommended by a mutual friend. When I met Anna and talked to her about the story, she liked it. 

7-To what extent your experience as a film editor helped you in your debut feature 200 Meters?

Definitely my previous experience as film editor made my life easier. For example when we shot the scene of the wall, we had to shoot in two different locations. Being an editor, it was easy to think of solutions in terms of location and how everything was going to look like later. Actually, I was supposed to work on the rough cut of the film myself, but I changed my mind because I needed to distance myself from the film, allowing for another creative input. I had a great working experience with Kamal el Mallakh, the editor of the film. He’s actually from Cairo, and we used to be classmates at the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts in Jordan. 

Every role you play in the filmmaking world will help you when you become a director especially in independent films. This is because as a director, you need to solve every problem.

8-What are your marketing plans pertaining to 200 Meter?

Rome-based True Colors is handling the international sales and making the promotion plans. 200 Meters participated in acclaimed festivals such as Venice International Film Festival and El Gouna Film Festival. In the upcoming period it is planned that the movie is going to Carthage, Busan, Iceland, London, France, Thessaloniki, Antalya, and Spain. I plan personal to keep it touring for the next two years. I hope that 200 Meters will be included in the program of a platform like Netflix, in order to be available for wider audience from all around the world. 

9-What are your future projects?

While I am now at the beginning of my career I am thinking of my next project which I hope will be easier. From my point of view 200 Meters succeeded because it was very personal, I narrated the story speaking from my heart and I was strongly attached to the story so I want to have the same energy for my new film. I have a few ideas in my mind that need development, I will choose one and start working on it very soon.

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