During the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), the Arab Cinema Centre (ACC) granted Mohamed Keblawi — the Founder and Head of the Malmö Arab Film Festival in Sweden — the Arab Cinema Personality of the year award.
This comes in recognition of his contribution and immense support to Arab Cinema through the festival, which aims to promote Arab cinema in Sweden and Scandinavia.
Keblawi is a Swedish-Palestinian director and producer who has worked in television and documentary film production. In 2011, he founded the Malmö Arab Film Festival in Sweden, which was established to encourage Arab filmmakers to find more opportunities to tell their stories and support Arab film projects.
The festival screened hundreds of Arab films since its establishment, including Director Naji Abu Nowar’s Jordanian film ‘Theeb’, Kaouther Ben Hania’s Tunisian film ‘The Man Who Sold His Skin’, and Palestinian short film ‘The Present’ by Farah Nabulsi — all of which were nominated for an Oscar.
Keblawi also launched the MAFF Market Forum as part of the festival with the aim of supporting Arab film projects and helping them come to light.
During its latest edition, the forum presented monetary prizes worth $250,000. Ever since it was created, this annual prize supported almost 100 projects, including Mounia Akl’s ‘Costa Brava’, Kaouther Ben Hania’s ‘Beauty and the Dogs’, Ali Al-Arabi’s ‘Captains of Zaatari’, Ameen Nayfeh’s ‘200 Metres’, Maysoon Pachachi’s ‘Our River…Our Sky’, Nejib Belkadhi’s ‘Communion’, Marwa Zein’s ‘Khartoum Offside’, and Dina Naser’s ‘Tiny Souls.’
Keblawi is also the founder of ‘Arab Cinema in Sweden’ — a company that works on the distribution of Arab films in Sweden. These films include Mohamed Jabarah Al-Daradji’s Jordanian film ‘The Journey’, Sophie Boutros’ Lebanese film ‘Solitaire’, Mohamed Khan’s Egyptian film ‘Factory Girl’, and Khadija Al-Salami’s Yemeni film ‘I Am Nojoom, Age 10, and Divorced.’
Most recently, Keblawi received the City of Malmö’s Grant for Art and Culture for the year 2021. This is an annual grant allocated to twelve creators in the fields of music, theatre, cinema, and literature. From 2015 to 2017, he was a member of the documentary film nomination committee for the Guldbagge Awards, which is considered Sweden’s version of the Oscars.
“What Keblawi did by establishing a main venue for Arab cinema in Sweden is certainly a first of its kind. Through which, thanks to his tireless efforts, he was able to develop a platform for filmmakers in Sweden and Europe, and so Arab filmmakers became quite familiar faces in Sweden. He was able to create an exceptional fan base for a festival that caters for Arab films in Europe. We are honoured to grant him the prize, as he continues to expand his horizons each year, whether through the festival or through his distribution and production firms.” commented Alaa Karkouti and Maher Diab, the Co-founders of Arab Cinema Centre.
“The prize crowns many years of hard work to try to grant Arab films a chance to be acknowledged in places that they have never been before,” Keblawi said after announcement of the prize.
“Things like the release of an Arab picture in Swedish theatres or Sweden’s funding of an Arab film were fictitious at the beginning of the millennium, this is an achievement which I am proud of. I’d like to thank everyone who helped me reach my goal. I’d also like to thank the Arab Cinema Centre for this award, which I’m very proud of.”
The Arab Cinema Personality of The Year award is part of its strategy of promoting the Arab film industry internationally and supporting Arab filmmakers. During the last years, the ACC presented the Arab Cinema Personality of The Year award to Chiraz Latiri, the former Tunisian minister of cultural affairs; Mohamed Hefzy, a screenwriter, producer, and the President of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF); Abdulhamid Juma, the Chairman of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF); and Masoud Amralla, the Artistic Director of the DIFF.
The ACC was founded in 2015 by MAD Solutions and is a non-profit organisation based in Amsterdam. It provides networking opportunities with representatives of companies and institutions specialised in co-production and international distribution, among others.
The ACC’s activities vary between film markets, stands, pavilions, networking sessions, one-on-one meetings bringing together Arab and foreign filmmakers, welcoming parties, and meetings with international organisations and festivals. Also, it publishes the Arab Cinema Magazine, which is distributed in leading international film festivals and markets.
The centre also launched the Arab Cinema Directory in English on its website, which is a comprehensive cinema directory that provides multiple tools in one place for the first time in order to enhance easy access to information on Arab cinema to film makers inside and outside the Arab world.
It also aims to facilitate the connection between Arab films, filmmakers, and the international market, and helps international filmmakers easily identify Arab cinema productions.