It's in the nature of cinema that once a film finishes its run in cinemas, people tend to assume it's just gone away until the inevitable DVD release and move onto this week's releases. Perhaps even more so for indie directors, whose films may get a limited theatrical release, inspire a few noble cinephiles, and then disappear into the annals of under-appreciated movie gems. Right?
Maybe not, judging by the latest news from the camp of Mahmoud Kaabour, director of 2013's intimate study of the musical aspirations of Dubai's labour camp population, Champ of the Camp.
The movie, you may recall, followed a group of Dubai labourers through an inter-camp singing competition, premiered to an oversubscribed Burj Park crowd during last December's Dubai International Film Festival, became the first locally produced feature documentary to achieve a U.A.E. cinema release the following month, picked up rave reviews from the likes of The Guardianand Vice, and then presumably went back into its box. Right?
Well, no, not quite. Among other things, the movie has, since its DIFF unveiling, had its European premiere in Munich, found its way onto OSN's schedules locally and, most recently, screened at the New Taipei City Film Fest in Taiwan, among others. The latest news about the movie is perhaps the most exciting yet though, as The National can exclusively reveal it has now been selected to screen at New York City's biggest festival, the CBGB Music and Film Festival.
The festival, for the uninitiated, is the phoenix-like resurgence of the seminal NY club of the same name that is widely-regarded as the birthplace of punk rock. The original club, founded in 1973, gave early opportunities to artists as globe-conquering or genre-defining as The Ramones, Patti Smith, Suicide, Television, and the list goes on.
Having closed in 2006 following a rent dispute and the landlord refusing to renew the club's lease, and following an initial plan to relocate to Las Vegas being neutered by the death of the club's founder, Hilly Kristal, due to cancer in 2007, all went quiet.
As quiet as an indie film that's finished its cinema run, perhaps, as it didn't last. In 2012, the CBGB name resurfaced in its new, city-conquering festival model, that this year sees the CBGB Festival take over much of the city from October 8-12 with nothing but the best music and music-related cinema.
If ‘take over much of the city' sounds like an exaggeration, bear in mind that the festival closes Times Square for its headline gigs (Jane's Addiction this year), puts others in Central Park, and takes over a significant proportion of the city's music venues, cinemas, concert halls and dives while it's at it. For an idea of scale, at 2013's event, 525 bands played over the festival's five-day run. The organisers don't count the attendees. It seems safe to assume six-figures over five.
Dubai-based Kaabour is understandably elated to have been selected, but not purely for the mass exposure his film is about to get: "The film is now being appreciated for its musical qualities and seen as a music film,” he says, perhaps wary of earlier fears that it may be painted into the overly-politicised corner where many documentaries about Dubai's camps sit. "The festival doesn't include any movies that aren't about music, and rarely anything from outside the US. Sure, it's not Tribeca or the NY Film Festival, but this is a festival for the masses. I think they are emulating what DIFF did with the film here and showing it to a huge crowd of normal people, and that's beautiful for us.”
Possibly in a moment of understandable journalistic hyperbole, I suggest to Kaabour that, with its story of the everyday struggles of working people, and its selection by, debatably, the world's most instantly recognisable punk rock ‘brand' (irony noted), his film could perhaps lay reasonable claim to the title of ‘Middle East's First Punk Rock Film.'
He's unconvinced: "I've never thought of it that way to tell you the truth, but I think there's a rawness and difficulty to the life of the singers in our film that could relate to the overall theme of the festival. Punk rockers don't generally fit perfectly into the society in which their music is released, and this might be the same in our film. These are men who are channelling a lot of pain and a rough life in manual labour into their songs. It struck a chord with the programmers, that's for sure. I'm interested to see how the ‘punk rock' audience will react, and I'm working really hard on getting out there myself because I really want to find out.”
Source: The National