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Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Adds Four Arab Filmmakers as Members

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Haifaa al-Mansour | Basil Khalil | Naji Abu Nowar| Abdellatif Kechiche

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Adds Four Arab Filmmakers as Members

In an obvious homage to Arab cinema presence on the international stage, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the addition of 4 Arab directors as members of the Academy, which is responsible for the distribution of the Academy Awards. The directors are: Haifaa al-Mansour from Saudi Arabia (Wadjda), Basil Khalil from Palestine (Ave Maria), Naji Abu Nowar from Jordan (Theeb), and Abdellatif Kechiche from Tunisia (Blue is the Warmest Color).

The Academy's official website revealed a list of 683 names of its 2016 members, describing them as filmmakers who distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures.

Haifaa al-Mansour is the first female Saudi director of all time. She succeeded in filming the first feature film in Saudi Arabia, Wadjda, which was an official selection at the Venice Film Festival, where it won three awards. Wadjda was also the very first Saudi film to be nominated for the Oscars in the Foreign Language Film category as well as the BAFTAs. The film garnered 25 awards internationally. Additionally, director Haifaa al-Mansour was selected as a jury member in the Un Certain Regard Section competition of the Cannes Film Festival. Recently, she concluded filming her latest project A Storm in the Stars and is currently working on developing an animation film supported by the Doha Film Institute. She was also recently selected by Arab Cinema Magazine as one of the Influential Female Figures in Arab Cinema.

Basil Khalil garnered a lot of attention when his film Ave Maria won 20 awards in 11 months after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival 2015. The film was screened in 400 film theaters across the United States and Europe, making $2.8 million at the American box office following its Oscars nominated in the short film category. It was also screened across the Arab world with joint screening programs alongside the Jordanian feature film Theeb, becoming the first short film to be commercially released in the Arab world.

Theeb succeeded in garnering its director Naji Abu Nowar a membership in the Academy due to the film's nomination for an Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film. Theeb was screened in 25 countries and won 18 film awards, including Best Director at the Venice Film Festival and three awards at the 12th Trans-Saharan International Film Festival in Zegura (Morocco). Abu Nowar also won the Variety magazine award for 2014 Arab Filmmaker of the Year.

Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche directed 5 films, most of which have gone on to win international awards. His most recent film Blue Is the Warmest Color gained a lot of attention when it was screened at the 66th Cannes Fiulm Festival and won 83 awards and 93 nominations at international festivals.