Who is Basil Khalil? British-Palestinian director wins big prize at Toronto Film Festival

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Anglo-Palestinian production, A weekend in Gazawon the Toronto International Film Festival Fipresci Award.

Announcing it as this year’s winner, the Fipresci jury recognized the film for “its empathy and intelligence in capturing the spirit of the times” and “its audacious approach to contemporary satire and world cinema”.

“Basil Khalil’s direction finds room for the most painful and tender moments of interpersonal crises, even as he deftly intensifies the bawdy humor on display, capturing the nature of survival as a very serious and very fun business. for these characters,” the statement read.

However, in a recorded acceptance speech, Khalil said the project began as a happy “mistake”, which began as a pitch he made up to impress a producer at a networking event in Cannes.

“When they asked me, ‘Do you have a script?’ I lied and said ‘yes’ so I had to quickly write one,” Khalil said. “Little did we know this idea would be unleashed alongside Covid, and premiere and win at such a prestigious festival.”

After thanking his writing partner Daniel Ka-Chun Chan, he paid tribute to producers Amina Dasmal and Robin Fox, before expressing his gratitude to the film’s backers in appropriate satirical style. Presenting a bottle of bleach – replacing his prize – to the camera, Khalil said: “I dedicate this prize to you.”

The acceptance speech was in keeping with the director’s distinct sense of wit and humor, which critics praised A weekend in Gaza for. The film uses the Covid-19 pandemic as a way to explore the lives of Palestinians under occupation.

Its premise centers on an Englishman and his Israeli partner, a wealthy couple, who find themselves stranded in Israel when a virus known as ARS breaks out. Their only hope of escape is to smuggle into the Gaza Strip which, due to the separation wall, is known as “the safest place in the world”.

Khalil is no stranger to accolades; his previous short film, Ave Maria – a comedy about an encounter between Catholic nuns in the West Bank and a group of Israeli settlers – was nominated for the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film in 2016. After premiering at Cannes, it screened at over 200 film festivals around the world, winning over 40 awards along the way.

Handout of AVE MARIA” Film, Cannes Film Festival short film competition, directed by Basil Khalil.  Courtesy of MAD Solutions and Quat Media.  NOTE: For Christopher Newbould Story *** Local Caption *** al01mr-oscars-still-ave.jpg

In a previous interview with The NationalKhalil, who was born and raised in Nazareth to a Palestinian father and an Anglo-Irish mother, spoke of the power of satire: “Palestinians have a very good sense of humor – and whoever suffers in the everyone has always developed a good sense of humor to ease the pain and suffering they go through.”

The award-winning director also has a series of documentaries to his credit, including several on Palestine.

Palestinian cinema and television are currently experiencing a renaissance. Mo Amer recently became the first Palestinian actor in an American television show, with his Netflix series monthand Toronto is also set to host the Toronto Palestinian Film Festival on Thursday, followed by the Boston Palestinian Film Festival on October 14.

The third Palestinian Refugee Film Festival will also launch in Bethlehem later this month, screening 23 short films from around the world.

Speaking about the impact of portraying Palestinian life, Khalil said, “It’s really important to see another side of Palestine. When you put it in a movie and it goes around the world, people notice.”

Scroll through each other’s images Toronto International Film Festival winners below

Updated: September 19, 2022, 08:17

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