The Yemeni film “A New Day in Old Sana’a” won the first prize, worth 100 thousand Egyptian pounds, at the Cairo Film Festival on Thursday, Dec 8, 2005. The festival that ended on Friday Dec 9, 2005, included films from different countries around the world such as China – guest of honor-, Greece and France. The film was screened three times at “Grand Hayat Hotel” in the Egyptian city of Cairo. The organizing committee selected the Yemeni film from a collection of 150 movies from all around the world to participate in the formal competition of the festival along with other 14 films, two of them are Arab-made.
“A New Day in Old Sana’a” was co-produced by the Yemen Media Center in Sana’a and London-based Felix Films. It marks Yemenis’ ability and creativity in the film industry and the possibility of getting a thriving film making sector. The film was directed by Yemeni international film maker Badr Al-Hirsi and involved some 20 cinematography experts and technicians as well as 70 actors working over 60 days. The 90-minute film is set in the alleys of the magical old city of Sana’a. Produced late 2003 and early 2004, the Yemen’s film follows the lives of a number of persons during a day that soon becomes a local legend. The region waits keenly for the wedding of the year, not knowing the inner psychic disturbance of the groom who realizes that the woman he loves is not the wealthy girl he is to marry today but actually a low-class orphaned lass. Passions such as love and envy interplay leading to changes in the lives of the people concerned. Finally, the groom has gets compelled to choose between marriage and tradition on one hand or love and whatever it entails on the other.
Depicting aspects that are diametrically opposed to what most outsiders think of Yemen, the film provides a true and honest portrait of life in Yemen. It is interesting to know that the leading actor Nabil Saber of Old Sana’a, and his co-star actress Julia Towns of London found real-life romance and exchanged wedding vows last year in London, after which they eventually married. Earlier, Bader Al-Hirsi categorized his film to be some sort of a “romantic drama, showing a severe conflict between modern values and old, [but] is respectful of the strong morals of Yemen’s Islamic society.”
Before this event, this film was selected to participate at France-based Cannes Film Festival in 2004. The Film was accepted as part of the Cannes Film Festival during May 11-22, 2005. Although the film did not compete for the Palm d’Or (Golden Palm), because of its unfinished status caused by insufficient funding, it was introduced as part of the Marche du Filme (Film Market). It is worth noting that it was the first Yemeni film ever featured at Cannes. The film was also promoted at the 2005 European Film Festival that started on Dec 4, 2005, in the city of Aden along side with many other European films.
The film is planned to be screened at Dubai International Film Festival this month and at Muscat Film Festival this January. It is also expected to be featured at some 80 film festivals across Europe, America and Asia over the next years. The film was produced as part of the celebratory functions of the Sana’a as the Arab Culture Capital for 2004. It is noteworthy that the total cost of “A New Day in Old Sana’a” was to the tune of $750 thousand.