"Lose Weight Now, Ask Me How" (Egypt)
Written & directed by Mohammad Shawky Hassan

Project Synopsis:
A man who has been struggling with weight throughout his entire life suddenly disappears. His absence reveals various narratives of his lifelong battle with heaviness and unfulfilled desire for lightness, as well as interpretations and fragments of his multiple lives, whose exact nature is not completely clear.

About Filmmaker:
Mohammad Shawky Hassan is a filmmaker living and working in Egypt. He studied philosophy, film directing and cinema studies at the American University in Cairo, The Academy of Cinematic Arts & Sciences and Columbia University. His films include It Was Related to Me (2011), On a Day like Today (2012) and And on a Different Note (2015), which premiered at the Berlinale Forum Expanded, and was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York as part of its permanent collection. He was the film programs director at ArteEast, and the director of the Network of Arab Alternative Screens (NAAS) from 2011 till 2016. He curated film programs at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, The New York Public Library, UnionDocs and Cimatheque – Alternative Film Center.

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"Soora" (Iran)
Written & directed by Mina Keshavarz

About Filmmaker:
Documentary filmmaker and producer Mina Keshavarz was born in Shiraz in 1984. Since 2002 she has been working as a documentary filmmaker, journalist, and researcher. She is the co-founder of visual documentary magazine” From Tehran” and also the co-founder of a website on documentary film issues “Vamostanad" since 2009 in Iran. She has made several awarded documentary films on social issues which have premiered in IDFA, Thessaloniki, Sheffield, Tribeca Film Festival… 
She established her documentary film production “ MinDoc Film Production “ in Iran in 2013 with the aim to produce creative documentaries with a focus on social, political issues with a critical approach. Mina produced her last film “Braving the Waves” in co-production with Norway and France granted by several funds like IDFA Bertha Fund and Sorfond. She has served as a jury member in national and International film festivals. Now she is working on 2 projects “ Far Away” directed by Amin Behroozzadeh and “Soora” directed by herself. 

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"The Sufi Circus" (Jordan/Palestine)
Written & directed by Deema Dabis

Project Synopsis:
The Sufi Circus follows the story of a Palestinian American Fire Performer Kareemah to her homeland of Palestine. As she attempts to perform with her circus troupe in the occupied West Bank, she meets her ancestry and parts of herself she didn’t even know she had buried. 

About Filmmaker:
With a BA in Journalism and an MFA in Cinema from the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts, focused on writing and editing, finding unique ways of telling stories has always been a passion of Deema Dabis. She is currently working on a number of projects that include her feature script “The Sufi Circus” (formerly known as “Shake”) which went through Med Film Factory in 2014, RAWI in 2015, a scriptwriting residency with Beirut Film Station in 2016 and Cinephillia Shorts Lab in Rotterdam in 2016.  Her short film “Shake”, has traveled to film festivals all over the world receiving an honorable mention at the Franco Arab Film Festival and Best Short Film award at Tripoli Film Festival. She is also producing “From the Mountain” a historical narrative film in development by director Faisal Attrache.  


We have received 80 applications from 16 countries.
Here are the 12 projects that made the finalists' shortlist:

. Christophe Nassif, Club 534 (Lebanon)
. Dania Bdeir, In White (Lebanon)
. Deema Dabis, The Sufi Circus (Jordan/Palestine) 
. Derya Durmaz, The Bus To Amerika (Turkey)
. Elif Refig, Good Luck (Turkey)
. Ismahane Lahmar, I'll Go To Hell (Tunisia)
. Mina Keshavarz, Soora (Iran)
. Mohammad Shawky Hassan, Lose Weight Now, Ask Me How (Egypt)
. Sabrina Chemloul, The Bastard Girl (Algeria)
. Tazeen Bari, Letters From Death Row (Pakistan)
. Yassine El Idrissi, Saffron's Land (Morocco)
. Zain Duraie, The Sea Needs To Heave (Jordan)

Final selection will be announced on August 1st. 



ANNA ROSE HOLMER is the 2017 Independent Spirit Award Someone to Watch winner and one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film 2015. Her critically acclaimed narrative directorial debut, THE FITS (Venice 2015, Sundance 2016), was released with Oscilloscope Laboratories in 2016 and nominated for Breakthrough Director at the 2016 Gotham Awards as well Best First Featureat the 2017 Independent Spirit Awards. She recently produced Mike Plunkett’s SALERO (IDFA 2015) and Jody Lee Lipes’s BALLET 422 (Tribeca 2014).


SHRUTI GANGULY is a filmmaker based in New York City. She has worked with James Franco and his Rabbit Bandini Productions for the past seven years, and has made several feature films that have gone to Sundance, Venice, Berlin, Telluride and AFI. She recently produced Through You, a narrative VR told through dance, which premiered at Sundance 2017. Shruti was a founding partner at Fictionless, a production company that focuses on branded content, narratives, documentaries, and TV series. Prior to Fictionless, she ran the video departments and developed the video strategy at NYLON, MTV, and Conde Nast (crafting the CLIO-winning 73 Questions series). She is currently producing a feature with Keanu Reeves, and a TV series called Girly with Refinery29 and EP Rashida Jones.

Shruti was a member of Obama’s ECCO committee of entertainment leaders last year and is on the Creative Council for Emily's List. Shruti hails from India, by way of Oman. Shruti received her Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University, and was the first graduate of NYU's dual MFA/MBA program at Tisch and Stern.


KARIN CHIEN is a producer, educator and distributor committed to championing independent voices. Karin is the recipient of the Independent Spirit Producer’s Award, and the producer of ten independent feature films, including STONES IN THE SUN (2012), JACK AND DIANE (2012), CIRCUMSTANCE (2011), THE EXPLODING GIRL (2009), THE MOTEL (2005) and ROBOT STORIES (2002).

Her films have won over 100 festival awards, premiered at the Sundance and Berlin Films Festivals, been nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards and received distribution in over 30 countries. Karin is the co-creator of Cinema on the Edge, a new global film series celebrating uncensored cinema from mainland China.

Karin is the founder/president of dGenerate Films, the leading distributor of independent cinema from mainland China. Karin is also the creator of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) Fellowship, a mentoring program for mid-career Asian American media makers. Karin is based in Los Angeles and teaches at Temple University’s Los Angeles film & media program.


MATT HARVEY (distribution consultant) works in acquisitions and production for Sony Pictures Classics.

Recent films he has been involved in acquiring include Paul Verhoeven's ELLE, Meera Menon's EQUITY, Lorene Scafaria's THE MEDDLER, Marielle Heller's DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, Damian Szifron's WILD TALES, and Damien Chazelle's WHIPLASH.


BRADD SAUNDERS (script consultant) is a screenwriter, screenwriting teacher, film director, playwright, published novelist, short story writer, and freelance journalist with an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His movie, The Lounge People, played in theaters internationally and on Comedy Central, and the Starz Network, and he currently has screenplays optioned and in development on two continents. His play, Detective Nicky Carruthers is Dead, garnered a national playwriting award from the University of Arkansas and was produced at the Powerhouse Theater, in Los Angeles. The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Annual Ball, was a semi-finalist at the Inner City Cultural Center’s theater competition in Los Angeles, and was produced at the Missing Children Theater in New York. He was a screenwriting teacher, at both the graduate and undergraduate level, at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California for twenty-three years and has worked online as a mentor and in workshop settings for Cinephilia Productions. 
Currently, he is a screenwriting teacher and mentor to students throughout America at the Film Connection/Film Institute in Los Angeles, California.


Established in 1972 to address the under representation and misrepresentation of women in the media industry, Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitates the production, promotion, distribution and exhibition of independent films by and about women. The organization provides services to both users and makers of film, with a special emphasis on supporting work by women of color. Women Make Movies facilitates the development of feminist media through an internationally recognized Distribution Service and a Production Assistance Program.


DARINE HOTAIT (script consultant) is a New York based published writer and award-winning film director. Her films have screened at over a hundred international film festival and received a dozen Best Film Awards. Her work can be seen on SundanceTV, AMC Networks, BBC Channel, ShortsTV, IndieFlix and more. She was nominated for the prestigious Goethe Award and an EMMY Blu-Ribbon. She is the recipient of the New York State Council on the Arts Artist Grant, the New York Foundation For The Arts literary Fellowship, the AFAC Cinema Grant and the Roberto Cimetta Grant. She was selected in programs like Sundance Rawi Screenwriters' Lab and the International Scriptwriters' Maison Des Scenaristes at Cannes Film Festival. She is the founder & CEO of Cinephilia Productions in New York City - named top 5 creative incubator focusing on the Middle East and Africa.  
Aside from film, Darine is a published playwright and short story writer. Her work appeared or is forthcoming in various publications in print and online.  She has mentored over 40 screenwriting masterclasses and workshops at international film festivals and institutions such as the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York, Med Film Festival in Rome, Arab Film festival in Rotterdam, Dubai international Writers’ Center in UAE, among others.
Darine served as a jury member at film festivals in Sydney, Rotterdam, Beirut, Palestine and New York. 
She holds an MFA in screenwriting and film directing from the Art Center College of Design in California. She resides in New York City.