Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Lends Hand To Arab Filmmakers. The Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which started Thursday, is aimed at filling a vacuum among Arab filmmakers by offering them generous financial help. The festival will also promote quality Arab movies on the international platform besides bringing world cinema to the Middle East. The fourth edition of the festival is aimed at recognizing the efforts of outstanding Arab filmmakers and encouraging Abu Dhabi as the “culture capital” of the Arab region. One of the major recognitions at the festival is the “Black Pearl” awards in each category, which are worth $1 million in all. Intishal Tamimi, festival director, said of the festival, “This is the plan of ADACH (The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage)… Through ADACH, we are trying to boost cultural activities like classical programmes, music, publishing books to Formula 1. And movies are also a part of it.”
The festival, launched in 2007 to compete with neighboring Dubai, was earlier known as the Middle East International Film Festival. It will continue until Oct. 23. Since its inception, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, along with other Gulf film festivals, has attracted more attention than other older events in the Arab world, such as the one in Cairo. However, the main concern for the organizers remains that local productions need to be encouraged in terms of quality and content. The need for such a festival is reflected in the fact that, in all, Arab countries are able to produce fewer than 20 films worthy of being showcased at film festivals around the world. The organizers as well as the filmmakers intend to change that. In fact, an attempt to provide financial help to Arab filmmakers, festival organizers have established a “Sanad” fund, which would offer subsidies between $20,000 and $60,000 to “support the new currents in the Arab cinema and encouraging artistic creativity.” This year, there are 15 entries to the festival, among which are the Sanad-supported films, “Chatti Ya Dini” (Here Comes the Rain) by Lebanese director Bahij Hojeij, Egyptian film “Rassayel El Bahr” (Messages from the Sea) by Daud Abdul Sayeed and “Rodage” (Taming) by Syrian filmmaker Nidal al-Dibs.
CN Tower Owner Rejects $78 Million To Rename The Canadian Landmark. Canada Lands Company Vice President of Public and Government Affairs Gordon McIvor called an offer to rename a Canadian landmark a publicity stunt by an online used car firm that just launched its Website. Vehicle Gateway Corporation said on its portal on Tuesday that it will submit a $78 million bid to rename CN Tower and light it up using the car firm’s corporate color of green. Vehicle Gateway wanted to change the tower’s name to VG Tower. McIvor clarified that the 1,815-feet (553.3 meters) CN Tower, owned by CLC, is not for sale. However, Vehicle Gateway spokesman Peter Davies said their offer is a legitimate bid and is not to gain media mileage. CN Tower was the tallest free-standing structure on land until September 2007, when the title was taken by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. However, the CN Tower is still the tallest tower in the west. More than two million tourists visit every year the tower, located in Toronto.
Sound of Guns release their new single ‘Alcatraz’ on March 8th through Distiller Records. The single will be available on 7′ and digital download and is the first track to be released from their forthcoming debut album, which will be out later this year. The band have been busy in the studio with the renowned producer/mixer Chris Potter (Verve / U2) who has mixed the single. They also recently completed a string of dates supporting Adam Green with audiences lapping up their performances. Sound Of Guns are from Liverpool but don’t have the usual sound associated with the city. They have chosen anthemic power chords over jangly guitars and riotous gang vocals over quirky lyricism- an experience of epic proportions. Having broken through the ranks via BBC Introducing last year, the band have had many highlights including playing at Radio One’s Big Weekend, a main stage performance at Latitude festival and 4 performances at Glastonbury festival. They rounded off the year with a show at the inaugural Sound City festival in Dubai and opening Liverpool’s Music Week. Sound of Guns will be playing the following (see www.myspace.com/soundofguns for more):
19 Liverpool The Masque NME Awards
6 Cambridge Portland
9 Glasgow King Tuts
12 Tunbridge Wells Forum
15 Stoke Sugarmill
16 Cardiff Barfly
17 Manchester Ruby Lounge
18 York Fibbers
19 Atherton Fever
20 Leeds Cockpit
23 London Lexington
24 Nottingham Bodega
When agents for Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson came looking for Andrew Mwangura in Kenya, he could not meet them — he was on the run. The man they call the “Pirate Whisperer” was dodging both local authorities and well-connected criminals who were chasing him for exposing the international links of a wave of hijackings afflicting the busy international shipping routes off Somalia. “I said I was in trouble, come back again when the coast is clear,” Mwangura told Reuters in an interview at Mombasa port. Tinseltown plans to make an action movie about the piracy scourge. Jackson is to play Mwangura — the quiet 47-year-old founder of the non-profit East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program with seemingly unrivalled contacts with maritime groups, ships, ports and even pirates around east Africa. Himself a former seaman, Mwangura breaks news time and time again on seizures and releases of ships by Somali pirates, revealing details of ransom payments in what has become a multimillion dollar business. He is a hero to seamen, but a pain for the pirates’ financiers, said to be sitting in Nairobi, Dubai and London, managing the business by calls to the gangs’ satellite phones. There are strong suspicions that officials in the region could be involved, and Mwangura has not been shy of saying that.
Now Jackson and filmmaker Andras Hamori have secured the rights to his life story — but getting a chance to sit down and talk scripts has been more difficult than expected. Mwangura fell foul of the Kenyan government last year after the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship carrying 33 tanks, was hijacked en route to Mombasa. Mwangura said the consignment was really for south Sudan — and not Kenya, as officially claimed. In October, on his way to a talk-show where he was due to speak to the relatives of the Russian and Ukrainian crew, Mwangura was arrested. “They were waiting for me in Moscow and Kiev on camera. But I was taken to police headquarters for interrogation.” Mwangura spent nine days in jail. One frightening night, he said he was woken by security agents who wanted to take him out of the prison for reasons unknown. “I think maybe they wanted to harm me,” he said. His cellmates joined hands to prevent the guards from taking him, and he was left in jail. Mwangura was charged with making alarming statements to foreign media and for possessing $2 worth of marijuana. The government called him a frontman and spokesman for the pirates. He says the charges were trumped up to silence him, and the marijuana was planted. Charges were dropped last month. “They were trying to stop me but they lost. You cannot stop a calling,” he said.
FEAR OF ATTACK
Mwangura still fears he may be attacked, not by the government now but by criminals unhappy with the light he shines on their activities. But he is now in contact with the filmmakers, and ready to collaborate with the project. At first, the father-of-two was hesitant. “I’m not a movie actor, I don’t want to spoil their movie,” he said. The film makers reassured him that they just wanted to capture the real Mwangura for their story. Experts will shadow him for a couple of weeks to get the feel of his mannerisms. At first he kept the film quiet, even from his wife, but now the news is out. “Local media, TV and radio. People are calling, congratulating. Others come up with ideas — they say to do the film in a few different languages: Chinese, Pinoy, Arabic and Vietnamese, to represent the seafarers of the world. But I have no power on that, it is up to them.” Mwangura is amazed at how often his name appears in a Google search, and the National Museum of Kenya wants to record his story for posterity too. He says he has no time to watch films and still has not seen a Samuel L Jackson movie. But he hopes the film project will help to raise public awareness of seafarers, the “forgotten people” as he calls them, who keep sea trade alive.