Two Ground-Breaking Arab Films Selected for Academy Award Nominations
By Emiliya Strahilova/Arab America Contributing Writer
Two films from the Arab world were nominated for an Academy Award today. The Insult, a Lebanese story about an argument between a Christian mechanic and a Palestinian refugee, excelled in the category of Best Foreign Language Film; while Last Men in Aleppo was chosen to represent Syria in the Best Documentary Feature competition. Both movies deal with history and war but they also made history being the first winners of an Oscar nomination for their countries.
Ziad Doueiri has a serious reason to celebrate. His film received recognition at the most prestigious festival in the world! Despite all the controversy around the director of The Insult, his work was honored by the Academy. Ziad was proud to be the first to announce his success in the social media:
He is not alone. Film critics, journalists, and viewers are feeling festive about the good news too.
— Elie Fares (@eliefares) January 23, 2018
From Lebanon: “The Insult” has been nominated for the Oscars’ Best Foreign Film category.
From Syria: “Last men in Aleppo” has been nominated for the Oscars’ Best documentary feature category.
— Luna Safwan (@LunaSafwan) January 23, 2018
Big milestone for Arab and Lebanese cinema! #Lebanon‘s THE INSULT has just been nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film #Oscar, the first time in the history of Lebanese cinema! Congrats to everyone involved! #SupportArabCinema #OscarNoms #Oscars2018 #Oscars90 pic.twitter.com/LKwJ8uof9y
— Dubai International Film Festival (@dubaifilm) January 23, 2018
The Insult was positively acknowledged at the Venice Film Festival in 2017 and it won the award for Best Actor. Here is what the Ambassador of Italy to Lebanon, Massimo Marotti, had to say:
Congrats to #Lebanon and @ZiadDoueiri @Ghattask
🏆 THE FIRST LEBANESE FILM EVER NOMINATED FOR AN ACADEMY AWARD! #TheInsult #TheInsultMovie @ZiadDoueiri First presented at Venice @la_Biennale now nominated for the #Oscars #BestForeignLanguageFilm pic.twitter.com/RGgYq2R8Sy
— Massimo Marotti (@maxmarotti) January 23, 2018
Doueiri is originally from Beirut, Lebanon although he has lived and worked in Europe and the U.S. through the years. He is not only a director but also a cinematographer and a writer. He finished his education in Los Angeles and assisted Quentin Tarantino in his movies as a camera assistant. He has been criticized for a previous project, The Attack which was shot in Israel. Still, The Insult overwhelmed the negative responses with the profound message it carries about human nature and political differences.
Last Men in Aleppo
The documentary, Last Men in Aleppo is the first Syrian film to be nominated for an Academy Award. According to the Associated Press, The Syrian director, Firas Fayyad, called the nomination “a big shout out to justice”. It describes the unmasked horror of Syria’s conflict zone. Here is a synopsis of the movie published on the Public Broadcasting Service website which states: “After five years of war in Syria, the remaining citizens of Aleppo are getting ready for a siege. Through the eyes of volunteer rescue workers, called the White Helmets, Last Men in Aleppo allows viewers to experience the daily life, death, and struggle in the streets, where they are fighting for sanity in a city where war has become the norm. Winner, 2017 Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary.”
Firas Fayyad is a versatile cinema director, writer, producer, cinematographer, and editor. He made another documentary about the war before, called My Escape.
Last Men in Aleppo has been blamed for propagandizing about the White Helmets in Syria, but apparently, it has many supporters too:
The Syrian Cultural House would like to extend its heartfelt congratulations to #Syria|n director @firasfayy and the team behind “Last Men in Aleppo,” which was just nominated for a 2018 Oscars Award in the category of Best Documentary Feature https://t.co/TIPF7u9PM9. #Oscars2018 pic.twitter.com/1rdyH2dQE3
— SyrianCulturalHouse (@syriaculture) January 23, 2018