Dubai-based Middle Eastern distributor and producer Front Row Filmed Entertainment, who had a big hit earlier this year with the local remake of Perfect Strangers for Netflix, has acquired the regional rights to two Sundance-bending and gender-defying Arabic films.
Sirensexec produced by Maya Rudolph and Natasha Lyonne and directed by Moroccan-American filmmaker Rita Baghdadi, follows the story of Lilas and Shery, the co-founders and guitarists of the Middle East’s first all-female metal band as they struggle with friendship, sexuality and destruction in their pursuit of becoming thrash metal rock stars.
The lead documentary has played at more than 40 international festivals to date, in addition to Sundance, winning several awards along the way, including the One in Million Documentary Award at the Sun Valley Film Festival, the Special Jury Prize for Bravery in Filmmaking at the Florida Film Festival and the Mermaid award special mention at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. The documentary was also nominated for the Grand Jury Award (World Cinema Documentary) at the Sundance Film Festival and currently has a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Meanwhile, Front Row has also picked up the short film Warsaw by Lebanese-Syrian filmmaker Dania Bdeir, which follows Mohammad (Khansa), a migrant who works as a crane operator in Beirut. One morning, he volunteers to take on one of the tallest and notoriously dangerous cranes in Lebanon. Far from everyone’s eyes, he can indulge his secret passion and find freedom.
The film won the Jury Prize for Short Films at the Sundance Film Festival and played at more than 82 festivals, winning 28 awards since then, including the George Lucas Grand Prix at Tokyo’s Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia and the Jury Prize for Best Fiction at the Tampere Film Festival in Finland, as well as the Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding International Narrative Short Film at the Outfest Film Festival in LA. It was also nominated for the Grand Jury Award at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
“The works of Rita and Dania are courageous and groundbreaking for the region. We couldn’t be happier to represent their titles,” said Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra. “If we want a change in the movie scene, these are the kinds of voices we should especially listen to from this part of the world.”
Both Warsaw and Sirens will be released later this year after their festival in the Middle East. International sales for Warsaw are handled by the Polish outfit New Europe Film Sales and Autolook Film Sales takes care of Sirens.