JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival approaches the halfway point, junkets featuring artists from across the Arab world provide a closer insight into their films. Arab News sat down with the cast of “The Alleys” to know more.
The Jordanian feature film, one of the 16 Arabic and international films in the Red Sea Competition category, tells the story of an alley in East Amman representing a toxic brew of gossip and violence. Just one thing is sure: the shadowy corners of the alleyway are crawling with secrets.
Directed by Bassel Ghandour, who produced and co-wrote the Bafta winner film “Theeb” by Naji Abu Nawar, the film tells the story of Ali, a hustler who passes himself off as a regular businessman trying to scam enough money to legitimize his relationship with Lana, his secret lover. Meanwhile, Lana’s mother is being blackmailed by someone claiming to have filmed Lana and Ali together; Ali knows a man who can fix the situation, but that kind of fix will only lead to another crisis of deception and revelation.
“The Alleys” is Ghandour’s first feature as a director. It had its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival and its Arab premiere at the Red Sea Film Festival.
The Alleys received support from the Jordan Film Fund of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan, the Doha Film Institute in Qatar and the Red Sea Film Festival for Film Development in Saudi Arabia.
The film won the jury prize for the Eastern Promises Filmmaking Program at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic 2021.
It also received two awards at the Cairo International Film Festival for feature films in the post-production stage.
The cast includes the Jordanian actor Mondher Rayahne, who played Abaas in the film and is most famous for his roles as a knight or prince in Bedouin and historical series.
He said that Jordanians live in a multicultural society, “We presented a work that touches on a global humanitarian issue. It sheds light not only on a Jordanian issue, but on a universal one.”
“Our film represents a Jordanian neighborhood with its very simple identity, but we aspire to represent it in an artistic form,” he said.
“The stories never end, there are many alleys and there are many beautiful stories waiting for us to present them.”
Rayahne expressed his fascination with the festival and the level of Saudi films shown. “My relationship with Saudi society is very close and it has a good long history. We showed the film in Jeddah, a very dear city to my heart personally, and I am very happy with the reaction of the audience and their feedback about our film,” he said. “Saudi Arabia is full of theatrical and cinematic intellectual talents and I am happy with the greatness they have reached so far.”
Mohammed Geezawi, who played Bahaa in the film, said this genre is very controversial as it raises many important issues, such as bullying, extortion and fraud: “‘The Alleys’ tells a lot about the Jordanian street.”
Imad Azmy, who played Ali, said that his presence at the inaugural festival is a very important step in his artistic career.
“The festival will put the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the map of international film festivals, and this is an achievement that we are all proud of as Arabs, he said. “The film was shown to our Arabic audience for the first time in Saudi Arabia, and its place at this great event is a big thing for all of us. I was very interested in watching the audience’s reactions to the film, and I must say, I was very happy.”
Jordanian actress Baraka Al-Rahmani, who played Lana, said she would like to see many movies similar to ‘The Alleys’ because, she said, Jordan is a country with rich societal stories hidden in its alleys.