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God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya Wins Best Film at the Arab Critics' Awards for European Films

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Presented by European Film Promotion and Arab Cinema Cente

God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya Wins Best Film at the Arab Critics' Awards for European Films

With the collective effort of 42 film critics from 13 Arab countries who selected the best European film out of 24 nominations submitted by national film promotion institutions from throughout Europe, EFP (European Film Promotion) and the Arab Cinema Center (ACC) have announced God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya by director Teona Strugar Mitevska as the winner of the Best Film award at the Arab Critics' Award for European Films during a festive event held at the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). Sonja Heinen, Managing Director of EFP, Maher Diab and Alaa Karkouti, Founders of the Arab Cinema Center, and Mohamed Hefzy, President of the Cairo International Film Festival, presented the award to Labina Mitevska, producer and one of the lead actresses of the winning film.

It's worth mentioning that God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya is screening in the International Panorama section of the Cairo International Film Festival.

The Arab Critics' Award for European Films aims to promote European cinema in the Arab world and raise the interest of distributors and industry players for outstanding European films. This initiative also aims to cast light on the distinguished film critics from so many Arab countries and their important role in opening up new perspectives and bridging cultural idiosyncrasies.

In a joint statement, the very creative Mitevska sisters thank the jury: "We are thrilled and greatly honoured by this award! We come from North Macedonia, a country, a region, a zone of in-between that has been turned into a state of in-between, always becoming, never defined. To us, winning this award means that we are actually the bridge, not a gap. This award shows that culture is universal and that cinema can speak across continents. We believe in the power of cinema to exchange ideas and change minds, but most importantly to dare to say the unspeakable and the undesirable and by this start many uneasy but necessary conversations. We believe that cinema is a high art that can speak to wide audiences and we must cultivate and nourish it as a public good in these times of commercialization and commodification. We need to defend the freedom of expression as a basic human right, a right to provoke and dare the accepted systems of injustices. We love our job, cinema!"

Markéta Santrochová, EFP's President and Head of the Czech Film Center, is equally enthused by the jury's decision: "We are absolutely thrilled that the first Arab Critics' Award for Best European Film goes to a film by an outstanding female director, with an equally outstanding female cast. Its strong message demanding equal rights for women is universal. The film's heroine, a level-headed every women, doesn't budge an inch to male dominancy and argues her case with clear-sighted common sense. Congratulations to Teona and Labina Mitevska for receiving this important award."

Maher Diab and Alaa Karkouti, Founders of the Arab Cinema Center (ACC), said," The diversity of the films nominated for the first edition of the Arab Critics' Awards for European Films madeit a tough competition. The votes were so close and it was hard to expect the winning film. We would like to thank the film critics who participated in this initiative and congratulate the Mitevska sisters on their achievement and the award."

Mohamed Hefzy, President of the Cairo International Film Festival, said, "We are happy to host the awards ceremony of the Arab Critics' Awards for European Films at the Cairo International Film Festival. I would like to congratulate the cast and crew of the winning film and I encourage everyone to watch it at the International Panorama section of the festival."

As part of its promotional advance into the Arab world EFP also organised in cooperation with the festival a panel discussion on Strategies for Making Foreign-Language Films Less Foreign to Audiencescentring around the following questions: What can we do to improve the situation for foreign language films at the theatrical box office worldwide? What are sales agents, film festivals, national film promotion institutes, distributors and exhibitors doing to enhance the visibility of films outside their countries of origin? Can these stakeholders work better together? Is this a question of finding engaging new strategies or simply a matter of increasing the budgets for marketing and communication?

The panel bring together experts: Verena von Stackelberg (Berlin International Film Festival),Daniel Ziskind (Film Clinic), Agahthe Valentine (Totem Films), Labina Mitevska, Winner of the Arab Critics' Awards for European Films, and film analyst Alaa Karkouti (MAD Solutions, Arab Cinema Center). The panel is moderated by Sonja Heinen, EFP's Managing Director.