The 3rd edition of Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival confirms the rise of Arab and Lebanese genre film
Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival is back for its third edition in Beirut and with new dates. This year’s 3rd edition, that opens on Halloween day on October 31 until November 4, confirms the rise of Arab genre film, as it witnesses a growing participation of Arab and Lebanese movies.
Maskoon is organized by the film production house Abbout Productions in association with VOD platform Cinemoz, the organization Metropolis Cinema and the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, University of Balamand (ALBA).
Executive director Myriam Sassine said: “we live in times where reality is becoming scarier than fiction: pollution, economy crisis and political turmoil are turning Lebanon into a semi apocalyptical place that people dream of abandoning. But we have chosen to resist with culture, education and definitely, entertainment. It’s with this state of mind that we approach this third edition of Maskoon.” She added: “as our day to day conversations often revolve around the imminent collapse of the country, we have imagined in the festival’s poster what will Future Beirut look like. A dystopian city where nature has taken over and mutant creatures are emerging.”
As for Artistic director Antoine Waked, he pointed that Maskoon “will be presenting genre films from all over the world: France, Mexico, U.S.A, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, South Korea and will shed a particular spotlight on the MENA region with films coming from Iran, Tunisia, Algeria and Lebanon. These films have been selected in prestigious festivals such as Cannes and Venice and pave the way to more young Arab filmmakers to use genre for telling essential stories about our times.” He noted that “this confirms the relevance of our platform and endeavors.”
The festival will open with a bang with The Guilty by Gustav Möller, a tight and intense tour de force from Denmark in which a police officer answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman. The film won the Audience Award at Sundance and Rotterdam film festivals, it’s a compelling crowd pleaser that will put the audience on the edge.
The rest of the selection is equally exciting, a selection of a variety of genres from different countries: Mexico, France, Sweden, Korea, Tunisia, Spain, U.S.A that will be screening in the MENA region for the first time.
Issa Lopez’s dark fantasy from Mexico Tigers Are Not Afraid takes a look at children trying to survive the drug war in Mexico. The film has already gathered 34 awards and has big supporters like Stephen King and Guillermo Del Toro; the later will be producing Lopez’s upcoming film.
Controversial director Gaspar Noé returns with the acclaimed Climax, a hallucinatory film experience filled with dancing and nightmarish images that won at the Directors’ Fortnight Top award in Cannes this year. Another Cannes winner is Border by Ali Abbasi who won at Un Certain Regard 2018. The film is quite a peculiar mixture of gender bender, fairy tale, romance and thriller.
Also from Cannes international competition comes the critics’ favorite Burning by Lee Chang-dong. The film received the highest scoring in Screen International in Cannes’ history. It’s a chilling and mysterious character study that slowly unravels.
Berlinale competition title Pig by Mani Haghighi is a slasher comedy about a serial killer murdering Iranian filmmakers and is unlike anything you’ve seen from Iran. It also stars acclaimed actress Leila Hatami who was in A Separation by Asghar Farhadi.
Swiss filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe will attend the festival to present his acclaimed documentary that screened at Sundance Film Festival. 78/52 is about the big influence of Psycho’s shower scene. Philippe will also present the ultimate masterclass on the work of Alfred Hitchcock with a deep analysis of different clips of the master’s best work. This masterclass is organized in collaboration with the Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon.
Since its inception, Maskoon has been pushing for more Arab genre and Dachra by Abdelhamid Bouchnak came in as a surprising and rare breed of Tunisian horror. Bouchnak’s film which premiered at the Critics’ Week in Venice is a scary intense nightmare that manages to channel the feeling of unease felt by the Arab world in the last years. The director will attend the festival to present his film to the Lebanese audience.
Aside from Dachra, the festival will offer an Arab Focus screening of two of the most influential Arab genre shorts of the past year, Kindil El Baher by Algerian filmmaker Damien Ounouri (Cannes Directors’ Fortnight 2016) and Last Days of the Man of Tomorrow by Lebanese filmmaker Fadi Baki (who just won best fiction at Lebanese Film Festival – Beirut). Both directors will be present during the screening.
As for the classic film, the Maskoon collaboration with Sitges Fantastic Film Festival expands this year with a carte blanche highlighting Spanish cinema and a screening of the horror mystery The Nameless by acclaimed filmmaker Jaume Balaguero, best known for the successful [REC] film series. This collaboration was made possible thanks to the Spanish Embassy of Lebanon.
The festival closes with an elegant and beautiful cine concert Retour de Flamme, a trip to the silent cinema era with a unique piano performance by restoration expert Serge Bromberg who will play live music while making us discover hidden lost gems from the early days of film.
The Lebanese short genre film competition will continue for the second year in a row. 10 short films were selected: Alone by Hady About Ghazaly, Boot by Myriam Maroun, Dog River by Liana Kassir and Renaud Pachot, Dump by Youssef El Khoueiry, Hollow Peak by Karl Hadife, Kill Yourself by Ali Ayoub, Meander by Tamara Geadah, RGB by Jad Sleiman, Nocturnal Deconstruction by Laura El-Alam, The Great Domini by Celine Moukarzel.
Each filmmaker has used genre in a different way: horror, science fiction, dystopia, black comedy, drama… offering different films that range from the very low budget to films with more sophisticated visual effects.
A jury of experts will award the films: Nicole McControversy (Head of programming at Boston Underground Festival), Gerald Duchaussoy (Head of Cannes Classics) and Mike Hostench (Co-director of the Sitges Film Festival).
There will be 2 winners, the Maskoon award will entitle the winning film to be entered in the prestigious short films competition at the Sitges Film Festival with an invitation to the filmmaker to attend the Spanish Festival.
The Abbout award is a cash prize of 1500$ and will also include a script consultation from Abbout Productions for the winning filmmaker’s next project.
Maskoon continues its collaboration with ALBA University who will open up its campus for students and industry people from all over Lebanon to attend a special Maskoon day with unique masterclasses to encourage young filmmakers to make their own genre films. During this special day, which will take place on November 1st, there will be panels with different experts ranging from the festival’s guests to professionals from the local film industry, to discuss the rise of Arab genre cinema, the history of horror cinema and how to save our film heritage from disappearing.
Maskoon will take place at Metropolis Cinema Empire Sofil and like every year, the cinema will be redecorated for the occasion. This year’s theme imagines amidst the current environmental crisis the country is suffering from, what the dystopian Beirut of the future looks like, a collapsed city where nature has conquered and where creatures roam.
Metropolis will also include a space for movie goers to hang out and have a good time between screenings, where they can meet some of the best Lebanese illustrators who will draw commissions to the guests, experience a horror themed VR station and listen to a selection of vinyl.
Tickets will be on sale at Metropolis Empire Sofil for 8000 L.L, festival passes are also available for 40 000 L.L. Tickets cine-concert Retour de Flamme will be on sale at the Maskoon stand at Metropolis Empire Sofil for 20 000 L.L. The access to short films screenings, Arab focus and masterclasses will be free.
Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival can happen this year thanks to its 4 main partners Abbout Productions, the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, University of Balamand (ALBA), Cinemoz and the organization Metropolis Cinema. It’s also sponsored by Rak Printing press, the Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon, the Embassy of Spain in Lebanon, Château St Thomas, Fondation Liban Cinema, Sitges Fantastic Film Festival, Vivad, Exotica, Tawlet, Dar El Gemmayze, Marinella, Zaatar w Zeit, Jameson, the Smallville Hotel, Libanpost, Light FM, Lebtivity, L’agenda culturel.