When I Saw You, Annemarie Jacir’s second feature, is currently screening in theatres in the U.K.
“In cinemas this week,” is the dream phrase of every film-maker, even those who have made their name on the international scene. For Annemarie Jacir, an acclaimed Palestinian director living in Jordan and a 2010 – 2011 Rolex Arts Initiative film protégée, having her second feature film on release at iconic film venues and arthouse cinemas in the U.K. and Ireland is an exciting prospect.
Jacir’s award-winning film, When I Saw You (2012), the toast of film festivals around the world, was released by New Wave Films and shown in early June at leading London arts and film institutions – the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) and BFI (British Film Institute) – the Irish Film Institute and the Glasgow Film Theatre, as well as at the historic Rio Cinema in trendy east London. Additionally, there was a screening at the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts).
“Having a U.K. run for When I Saw You is a wonderful opportunity,” says Jacir. “The film has been released in other countries, including Greece and Jordan, but the fact that it has been shown at such prestigious cinemas in and around London, in Scotland and also in Ireland is a real honour and a boost for its future success.”
A still from Jacir's film When I Saw You
Written and directed by Jacir, When I Saw You is a heart-rending account of an 11 year-old Palestinian boy, Tarek, and his mother, Ghaydaa, who are refugees in Jordan following the 1967 war. The boy yearns to return to his country and to his father who was left behind. A story of human displacement during a turbulent period of history when the world was alive with change and hope, the film has won major awards since its release in 2012. It was named Best Asian Film in the Forum section at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival, Best Arab Film in Abu Dhabi in 2012 and was Palestine’s 2013 Oscar entry, to name just some of the accolades.
Previously shown in the U.K., it was screened at London’s 2013 Birds Eye View Film Festival for women film-makers.
Tributes about the film have come from many sources. For the Huffington Post, When I Saw You is “cinematic poetry, the perfect blend of stunning cinematography, humanly portrayed characters and a story that hits you with an immediate gut reaction...”
“One of the best works to come out of the current explosion in film-making in the Middle East,” raved Indiewire.
When I Saw You also garnered excellent reviews following its release in the U.K. where The Guardian described the film as a “warm, supple and heartfelt movie ... that suggests a poignant connection between statelessness and the experience of losing a father”. The Times called the “impressive” second feature “a spirited account of an enforced coming of age” – for both mother and son.
Jacir’s earlier films have also made a stir. Salt of this Sea (2008), her much praised debut feature and the first feature film directed by a Palestinian woman, premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival and was a submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Academy Awards. Her short film, like twenty impossibles (2003), was an Official Selection of the Cannes Cinéfondation, the first Arab short film to be recognized at Cannes.
What's next for Annemarie Jacir? Without revealing too much, she indicates a further U.K. connection. “My next film is about a British guy who comes to Bethlehem,” she says. Bethlehem, in the West Bank, is her hometown.