Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival 4th edition An online edition from 10-16 June in times of global fear

The 4th edition of Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival, which was postponed from November 2019, is coming back as the first Lebanese online film festival. The festival will be presented for free for the Lebanese audience on the VOD platform Spamflix and will contain international and Arab films that were screened in international film festivals, a Lebanese genre short film competition, Q&A with the filmmakers, workshops and the first edition of Maskoon Fantastic Lab.

This online edition comes in a period filled with fear of the coronavirus in which reality has surpassed the scariest horror scenario.  This edition of Maskoon is presented by Beirut DC in partnership with Spamflix, Abbout Productions and the Institut Français du Liban. Festival Director Myriam Sassine said “we live in difficult times where reality has become scarier than fiction, especially in Lebanon which was hit by a financial collapse and the coronavirus pandemic at the same time. We wanted to fight that with entertainment and culture as they’ve been helping people maintain their sanity and hold on to each other in this gloomy situation and participated in keeping human connections ongoing.” Sassine added that “making this edition online and free was essential as it provided a safe environment for watching movies, encouraging local talents, promoting the growth of making genre films in Lebanon and the Arab world, supporting filmmakers with new upcoming projects and providing guidance, training, and production opportunities for them while also enabling them to display their work in important festivals and markets worldwide.”

The program

Artistic director Antoine Waked highlights that this year’s lineup is marked by a dark sense of humor that’s very reminiscent of our current feelings.

Initials S.G by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia is a black comedy with a Serge Gainsbourg lookalike protagonist who keeps running into bad luck. The Film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival where it received the Nora Ephron Award.

More dark humor but this time from Russia with the crazy violent crime comedy Why Don’t You Just Die! by Kirill Sokolov and from France, acclaimed filmmaker Quentin Dupieux continues to explore the darker side of absurdity with Deerskin (Le Daim) starring Jean Dujardin and Adèle Haenel and which opened the Directors’ Fortnight this year in Cannes Film Festival.

Yakuza romance is strong with First Love the latest film from prolific legendary Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike which premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight in the Cannes Film Festival.

The Long Walk by Mattie Do isan intense science fiction thriller from Laos which premiered at the Critics’ Week in Venice Film Festival.

Banned from screening in Lebanese cinemas in 2018 during the 3rd edition of Maskoon, Climax by Argentinian author Gaspar Noé, an ecstatic dance film filled with hallucinatory horror images will also premiere online.

Alexandre O. Philippe who was a guest last year and presented his take on the Psycho shower scene with 78/52 will return with an in depth analysis of the lingering impact of Ridley Scott’s Alien in the documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien.

The trippy cosmic opera Blood Machines by Seth Ickerman will dazzle the viewers with its mind-blowing visuals set to the music of the band Carpenter Brut.

The Arab world continues its recent run of striking and innovative genre fares with Amin Sidi-Boumedine’s powerful existential thriller from Algeria Abou Leila that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival – Critics’ Week.

Two groundbreaking short genre films will also screen during the festival Piggy by Spanish filmmaker Carlota Pereda and Sundance winner So What If The Goats Die by Moroccan filmmaker Sofia Alaoui.

The Competition

The Lebanese short film competition is back with a selection of diverse films from Lebanese filmmakers who will compete for two monetary awards, which will be given by a jury composed of Lebanese film critic Chafic Tabbara, Greek-Lebanese filmmaker Joyce Nashawati and Swiss festival programmer Anne Delseth. The selected 8 short films are Crossover by Lea Kanaan, Elpide by Gaelle Azzam, Jabbara by Samir Kawas, Khalal by Charbel Kosseifi, Mawt Ahmar by Roger Helou, Neon Ashes by Ali Hamouch, Noisy Caterwaul by Cynthia Abu Jawdeh, Quarter Rest by Geawargios Hanna. The competing films demonstrate a concrete promise for the future of genre cinema in Lebanon as the young filmmakers have delved into stories of horror, science fiction and dystopian futures drenched with a strong political message. Sassine says that “it feels like these films were born from the same seeds that caused the Lebanese revolution; A deep anger toward an oppressive society and an outcry for positive change.” In addition to the monetary award, the short winning the first award will also be screened at Cinemed film festival in Montpellier allowing more exposure to the film and its director.

The Lab

The biggest update this year is the launching of the Maskoon Fantastic Lab, an initiative that will pave ways to the production of more Arab genre films.

The Lab aims to push Arab filmmakers to develop and package their genre film and to get them a step closer to production.

The selected projects for this first edition offer a diverse take on genre with a strong social political subtext. There are 3 projects from Lebanon: the psychological thriller The Occurrences by Nizar Sfair; the Zombie comedy Zayn by Wissam Charaf and the schizophrenic North by Selim Mourad; from Morocco, the coming of age fantasy Plum Season by Rim Mejdi and from Egypt, the dystopian drama You are in Trouble as we laugh by Khaled Medhat Moeit.

Six experts will be giving intensive one on one consultation on the selected projects, Swiss producer and head of Frontieres Market Annick Mahnert (The Gasoline Thieves, Memory, The Long Walk), French VFX supervisor Guillaume Nadaud (Broken Keys), Lebanese Filmmaker Rania Attieh (Initials S.G., OK, Enough, Goodbye), Lebanese producer Georges Schoucair (Tramontane, It Must Be Heaven, All This Victory, 1982), Fantastic Fest creative director Evrim Ersoy, Lebanese producer and distributor who works with Film Clinic Indie Distribution, Jessica Khoury . The experts will select one project from the Lab that will be awarded to be part of 2021 Frontieres Market in Montreal where the project will meet potential partners, sales, producers and financiers.

The Workshops

Part of the Maskoon Lab, panels will explore different topics related to the production of genre films, Annick Mahnert will explain the specific steps to fund a genre film including case studies and Maskoon’s artistic director Antoine Waked will do a lecture about the new trend of Arab genre and how to write horror, fantasy and science fiction.

Also in Maskoon’s framework, Fondation Liban Cinema in collaboration with the award winning VFX and CG supervisor Dariush Derakhshani (Game of Thrones, Apocalypto, Pan’s Labyrinth) is launching its first VFX e-workshop. The workshop’s goals are to empower the learner with the ability to take on compositing prep work commonly outsourced to partners around the world and give participants a skillset to undertake entry-level professional work in film and television compositing projects under proper supervision.

In parallel to this, the Lebanese online platform Aflamuna will host from 4 to 17 June a selection of Arab genre features and shorts including the previous winners of the Maskoon competition and films by Lebanese filmmaker Ghassan Salhab and Palestinian filmmaker Larissa Sansour

The Partners

Maskoon is presented by Beirut DC in partnership with Abbout Productions and Spamflix with the support of The French Embassy and the Institut Français au Liban,  The Swiss Embassy of Lebanon, the Spanish Embassy of Lebanon, Frontières, Cinemed – Montpellier, The Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA), Metropolis Cinema, Fondation Liban Cinema, Chateau St Thomas, Front Row Entertainment, Station, Dashur Residence, Centre Cinematographique Marocain (CCM), Rak and Arab Printing, Tawlet, Dar El Gemmayze and Marinella.

The 4th edition of Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival will start streaming online on SPAMFLIX from 10 to 16 June 2020.