East-West Coexistence Award

The Beirut Film Foundation and Make Films Not War are pleased to announce the selection of Tunisian filmmaker Nacer Khemir as the winner of this year's EAST-WEST COEXISTENCE AWARD. The $10,000 award is given to help filmmakers from the Middle East/North Africa region working to promote dialogue and to bridge cultural, religious, and/or political divides. This year's award will support the screenwriting of Khemir's next film, about a music school in Andalucia where Muslims, Christians, and Jews live and work together in harmony. Funding for the award is provided by Pakistani-American film financier and philanthropist Omar Amanat.

Nacer Khemir's latest film, Bab'Aziz, The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul, has been called "a splendid journey of magical realism that will seep into your dreams." It tells the story of a lively young girl and a wise old Sufi dervish as they wander through the desert in search of a legendary gathering of elders that takes place every thirty years. The young Ishtar must lead her blind grandfather Bab'Aziz in search of the great meeting. Although the location is never fixed in advance, Bab'Aziz explains that those who know how to listen with their hearts will always find their way. As they journey towards their destiny, he recounts to Ishtar the tale of the legendary Prince who gave up his kingdom to become a dervish.

Shot in Tunisia and Iran, the visually stunning film draws upon elements of Sufi mysticism to tell a story of faith and tolerance. Khemir says, "I tried to wipe Islam's face clean with my movie, by showing an open, tolerant and friendly Islamic culture, full of love and wisdom... an Islam that is different from the one depicted by the Western media in the aftermath of 9/11. Fundamentalism, as well as radicalism, is a distorting mirror of Islam... Sufism stands against all forms of fanaticism." He cites as an inspiration the Sufi saying "There are as many ways to God as the number of human beings on earth."

Nacer Khemir was born in the city of Korba in Tunisia. Through cinema, painting and sculpture, not to mention calligraphy, writing and story telling, Nacer Khemir has thrown bridges between two shores, between the North and the South, the East and the West. His literary work comprises a dozen publications and his production is still growing. His artistic work was the occasion of many exhibitions, at the Georges Pompidou Center, at the Museum in Modern Art in Paris and in many other French and European cities. Bab'Aziz is his third feature film.

The Beirut Film Foundation works to develop, support, and strengthen Arabic-language cinema to help it achieve a prominent position in the international film arena. The foundation is also the producer of the Beirut International Film Festival.

Make Films Not War is a new initiative drawing on the unique vision of the film community to promote peace with justice through education, communication, and political engagement. Grounded in the universal principles of human rights, it seeks innovative ways to bring people together to create nonviolent alternatives to armed conflict. Make Films Not War joined the Beirut Film Foundation as a sponsor and co-producer of the 2006 Beirut International Film Festival.

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