The Sundance Film Festival, a showcase for bold and independent filmmaking, has unvealed the films in the US and world competitions for the 2017 edition, which will be launching 19-29 January. Among the twelve titles in the World Cinema Documentary Competition is "Last Men in Aleppo," directed by the Syrian-Danish director duo Feras Fayyad and Steen Johannessen.
"Last Men in Aleppo" follows a small group of rescue workers from the White Helmets, a volunteer civil defense organisation operating in Syria, which was nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.
Now, after five years of war in the country, Aleppo's remaining residents are readying themselves for a siege. Khalid, Subhi and Mahmoud, founding members of the White Helmets, have remained to help their fellow citizens, and through them we experience daily life, death and struggle in a city under fire.
Syrian director Feras Fayyad has a BA in audiovisual arts and filmmaking from the international film and television school EICAR in Paris. He has worked on a number of films on contemporary Syrian issues and related subjects.
Steen Johannessen is chiefly known as an experienced editor on documentary films, with recent projects including IDFA First Appearance winner "Whe We Were," "Motley's Law" and "Warriors from the North." "Last Men in Aleppo" marks Johannessen's first directorial endeavour.
"Last Men in Aleppo" is made with AMC, Aleppo Media Center, an independent news centre founded in 2012 reporting from the war-torn province. The media centre draws on a number of local journalists and photographers, who have delivered the bulk of the footage for the film.
The film is produced by Søren Steen Jespersen for Larm Film in collaboration with AMC. Jespersen has produced such films as "Carbon Crooks" and acted as director, with Nasib Farab, on "Warriors from the North."
"Last Men in Aleppo" has received funding from the Danish Film Institute.
Fares Fares in "The Nile Hilton Incident," selected for Sundance's international feature film competition. Photo: Atmo Rights
Danes in Co-productions
Another two films with Danish participation are lined up for Sundance – international collaborations both co-produced by Final Cut for Real, the company renowned for "The Act of Killing" and "The Look of Silence," and backed through the Danish Film Institute's co-production fund.
"The Nile Hilton Incident" by Sweden's Tarik Saleh is selected for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Fares Fares plays the lead in the thriller which takes place in Cairo in the weeks before the start of the 2011 revolution. The Danish team includes editor Theis Schmidt, costume designer Louize Nissen and VFX supervisor Peter Hjorth. Monica Hellström and Signe Byrge Sørensen are co-producers.
Byrge Sørensen is also serving as co-producer on Yance Ford's "Strong Island," selected for the U.S. Documentary Competition. The film examines the violent death of the director's brother nearly 25 years ago and the judicial system that allows his killer to go free. Janus Billeskov Jansen played a critical role in shaping the narrative as editor on the film. Read more about the editing process in our feature story Co-produce with People You Like.
The festival will be announcing more films for its 2017 line-up over the following weeks.
Sundance Film Festival takes place 19-29 January 2017. See more at sundance.org.