june 2017, distribution news

"Akher ayam el madina / In the Last Days of the City"

by Tamer El Said, opens September 7, 2017 accompanied by the Caligari Award tour

Downtown Cairo is an organism that still seems alive back in winter 2009/10, but is becoming increasingly alien even to those born there. Khalid is a filmmaker. He looks at his images over and over again, as if he were waiting for them to produce some sort of meaning. The stories of his protagonists seem to come from somewhere inside him, he seeks points of reference in the outside world. The more he looks for them, the more they seem to disappear; not abruptly though, but in lengthy moments full of tenderness, such as when he bids farewell to his girlfriend who is leaving him, to his ill mother, to friends who have come to visit.

july 2017, distribution news

New: "For Ahkeem"

by Jeremy S. Levine, Landon Van Soest

Daje is seventeen, and just as unruly and caught up in her own thoughts as others of her age the world over. We only realise her future hangs in the balance when we see her go to juvenile court with her mother: she’s been expelled from school for rebelliousness and has just one last chance to get back on track. Yet the true gravity of her situation only gradually becomes clear: such as when we see the many names of her friends written on her notebook followed by R.I.P. and a recent date, or when Daje talks to her boyfriend about whether she – or he – might also die so young.

FOR AHKEEM explores the cosmos of a young black woman in St. Louis, Missouri, not far from Ferguson, where Michael Brown was shot in August 2014. The film adheres to a strictly personal perspective to recount her upbringing in today’s United States and show the predetermined paths open to her – lined as they are with barricaded brick buildings. But it also reveals Daje’s talent at avoiding the pitfalls of being either a victim or a model student, while evolving into an impressive film protagonist – of a documentary that depicts her complicated life more in the style of a poignant feature than a social reportage. (Dorothee Wenner)

july 2017, distribution news

New: "Shu'our akbar min el hob - A Feeling Greater Than Love"

by Mary Jirmanus Saba

A car with a loudspeaker on its roof is driving through southern Lebanon. The old man at the wheel is calling for people to join a demonstration to support their brothers and sisters who’ve occupied a tobacco company and are now being besieged by the army. His words come from the past, as he’s referring to events from 1973 – events that few remember today. Neither the protests made by the tobacco farmers from the south against the large landholders’ monopoly nor the strike for better working conditions by workers at a Beirut chocolate factory are anchored in the country’s collective memory. All recollection of this social movement was erased by the civil war and society has since been marked by deep sectarian divisions. Looking for both a lost era and strategies able to be applied to current struggles, the filmmaker sets out in search of clues. Starting from the death of a young woman killed during the strike, she asks questions of the activists of the time, archival photos, documentaries from the 1970s, her own person and the possibilities for militant action in film and society. The layering of these diverse materials allows the old man’s pleas to reverberate in the present day. (Forum catalog, Birgit Kohler)

july 2017, distribution news

New: "Mzis qalaqi - City of the Sun"

by Rati Oneli

Up to 50 percent of the world’s manganese, a vital metal across the globe, used to be mined in Chiatura, in western Georgia. Today, it resembles an apocalyptic ghost town. Mzis qalaqi portrays a few of the remaining inhabitants. Music teacher Zurab dismantles ramshackle concrete buildings and sells the iron girders to make some money on the side. Archil still works in the mine but his real passion is the local amateur theatre group. Despite being malnourished, two young female athletes still train stoically for the next Olympic Games.

In his documentary debut, director Rati Oneli provides fascinating insights into a living environment whose bleak industrial ruins appear at once colossal and like a film set. A jumble of clapped out electric wires and aging cable cars runs through the city like the clogged-up arteries of an ailing organism that resists the flow of life in untiring fashion. Mzis qalaqi brings home the ephemeral nature of utopias. In a city where the sun never shines, it’s only the inhabitants that generate warmth. Oneli succeeds in achieving far more than the mining companies are capable of: His camera brings that most valuable of resources to the surface – humanity. (Forum catalog, Ansgar Vogt)

november 2016, distribution news

"Barakah Meets Barakah"

by Mahmoud Sabbagh, opens March 9, 2017

If you were to ask a group of film experts which country is currently the least appropriate setting for a hilarious, truly wacky romantic comedy, the chances are that Saudi Arabia would come out on top. But their guesses would be wrong, as BARAKAH MEETS BARAKAH provides more than enough evidence to the contrary. He’s a municipal civil servant from Jeddah whose origins are humble to say the least, while she’s a wild beauty, the adopted daughter of a rich couple whose marriage has suffered due to their lack of biological children. He’s also an amateur actor in a theatre company rehearsing a production of "Hamlet", while she functions as a crowd-puller for her stylish adoptive mother’s boutique and runs her own boisterous, widely-seen vlog. Fate brings them together – in an environment hostile to dating of any kind. But the two of them show breathtaking ingenuity to circumvent the system of tradition, etiquette and religious police – with the crucial help of a quirky midwife and a pink push up bra. BARAKAH MEETS BARAKAH is a film for anyone who’s always wanted to know just what else is going on in Saudi Arabia. (Berlinale Forum catalog, Dorothee Wenner)

january 2017, distribution news

New in our Digital Distribution Range: Clemens Klopfenstein

Clemens Klopfenstein, the "rock of Swiss film", has made films with everything that he got his hands and eyes on: he started with 8 mm, moving on to Super8, 16 mm, Super16, 35 mm and then Video8, Video Hi8, analogue then digital. He has lived in Umbria for 40 years, painting, drawing, and producing with a familial Franciscan budget. We are very pleased that on top of our analogue copies digital versions of all of Clemens Klopfenstein’s works are now available from arsenal distribution. These will be joined by three further films that are currently in production in the future.

june 2016, distribution news

"Les Sauteurs – Those Who Jump"

by Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner, Abou Bakar Sidibé; opens November 17, 2016

Mount Gurugu overlooks the Spanish enclave of Melilla on northern Africa’s Mediterranean coast. The European Union and Africa are separated here by a high-security border facility consisting of three fences. Refugees, mostly from the sub-Saharan region, live in the tree-covered foothills, from where they try to cross the land border between Morocco and Spain. One of them is Abou Bakar Sidibé from Mali, who in LES SAUTEURS is both the protagonist and the one doing the documenting. After 14 months in the informal camp and numerous failed attempts to beat the fence system, Abou starts filming – his daily routine, his surroundings, the mind-numbing wait for the next "jump". His footage gives insights into the social organisation of the refugee community and provides a mournful look at the supposed El Dorado of Europe.

LES SAUTEURS carries out a unique shift in perspective: the abstract, anonymous thermal images of the surveillance cameras stand in contrast to the subjective gaze of an individual. After meeting Moritz Siebert and Estephan Wagner, Sidibé takes on the responsibility for their camera, tirelessly documenting his living conditions on the sidelines of an EU under lockdown. (Caroline Pitzen)