Three Arab Oscar hopefuls funded by Abu Dhabi’s Twofour54 SANAD initiative

The Wanted 18 has been shortlisted for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Courtesy National Film Board of Canada
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A total of three films funded by Abu Dhabi’s Twofour54 are in the running for a place on this year’s Oscar shortlist.

According to Academy rules, each country can submit just one film to be considered for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

And of seven Arabic-language films submitted for competition at the 2016 ceremony, three received funding from Twofour54’s SANAD initiative.

The films under consideration are:

Theeb by Naji Abu Nowar, submitted by Jordan

The Wanted 18 by Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan, submitted by Palestine

Iraqi Odyssey by Samir, submitted by Switzerland's Federal Office of Culture

SANAD is a development and postproduction fund for Arab filmmakers, which offer up to $20,000 to films in development and $60,000 to films in the post production stage, from a total budget of $500,000.

Ali Al Jabri, director of SANAD, said: “We are incredibly proud that almost 50 percent of the Arab film submissions to the Oscars this year were supported by SANAD.

“This recognition of the quality of films we support from the international film community is hugely encouraging, and demonstrates the growing appetite of audiences for seeing the latest films from the region.”

Of this year's submissions, Theeb has already won more than 25 awards since its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, where it received the Best Director Award in the Orrizonti Competition. It also won the Best Arab Film Award in the New Horizons Competition at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) last year.

The Wanted 18 also screened at the final edition of ADFF, where it won the Best Arab Documentary, while Iraqi Odyssey won the NETPAC Award for the Best Asian Film at the same event. The English-language version of the film will be released worldwide in 2016.

In addition to the SANAD funded films, Lebanon's Void, Morocco's Aida, Iraq's Memories of Stone and Algeria's Twilight of Shadows will also be hoping to receive a place on the final Foreign Language shortlist, normally of just five movies.

The last time an Arabic-language film received a nod was in 2013, with Hany Abu-Assad's Omar representing Palestine, a few months after it was selected to open the landmark 10th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival.

Previous SANAD Oscar submissions include Iraq's 2010 entry Son of Babylon, as well as Palestine's When I Saw You and Morocco's Death for Sale, both submitted in 2012.

The official Oscar nominations will be announced on January 14.