New Zealand Muslim short film to premiere in competition at Venice Film Festival

Coffee & Allah, an NZFC funded short film, will have its world premiere in competition of the 64th edition of the Venice Film Festival next month.
The short film is an Ethiopian Muslim story written by an Indian, directed by a Samoan and produced by a Japanese Canadian & Indian–all of whom are New Zealanders!
The announcement was made at a press conference in Rome last night New Zealand time.
Written by Shuchi Kothari, directed by Sima Urale and produced by Sarina Pearson and Kothari, Coffee & Allah is a film about a NZ Ethiopian Muslim woman’s appetite for coffee, Islam and a good game of badminton.
Kothari said last night, ‘I am overjoyed to hear that Coffee & Allah has been selected for competition at the prestigious Venice Film Festival. In the global climate of Islamophobia and the more recent attacks on Muslims in New Zealand, I felt the need to tell a story of a young Muslim woman who yearns to make a human connection in her new homeland.  I hope this film takes a small step in dispelling some myths here and overseas.’
Director Sima Urale said, ‘A world premiere at the Venice Film Festival is a really big deal. It is especially important to me as my first short film O’Tamaiti won the Silver Lion for Best Short Film at Venice in 1996. When they announced my award I was sitting next to Robert Altman who received the Golden Lion award for Lifetime Achievement! I have been so eager for the release of Coffee & Allah, and now that it’s been selected for Venice, it really has been worth the wait. I am so proud of everyone who worked on it, particularly our wonderful lead Ethiopian Muslim actress who really carries the story, making it a special and memorable experience for us all.
Producer Pearson said, ‘We were lucky to find Zahara Abbawaajji, an Oromo Ethiopian living in New Zealand. She stood up to the challenges of the shoot despite having no acting experience, a set full of relative strangers, and a very small baby. She really brought the character of Abeba to life.’
Coffee & Allah was funded by the Short Film Fund of the New
Zealand Film Commission. Sima Urale’s classic short O Tamaiti
, that won the
Silver Lion for Best Short Film in 1996, also deals with migrant issues. It’s a
film about a Samoan family living in NZ from the perspective of its children.
The film focuses on the burden of responsibility shouldered by the eldest of
the five children, eleven year old Tino, who becomes a surrogate parent in the
absence of his working parents.
Urale said, ‘It’s always a huge compliment to the team and crew when a film is selected for a prestigious festival like the Venice Film Festival. Coffee & Allah was a challenging and interesting project for me, being the first film I directed of someone else’s script. Writer Shuchi Kothari really captured my imagination with a fresh perspective and new content that I knew it just had to be made.
Sima Urale and Shuchi Kothari will collaborate again on the feature Apron Strings, which goes into production in October.  Apron Strings explores the fine line between nurture and control that marks mother-son relationships across cultures and tests the strength and elasticity of family ties. It is produced by Rachel Gardner through Maxim Films, and is funded through the Signature Film Scheme, an initiative between the New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand on Air and Television New Zealand. 
Venice is the oldest film festival in the world. This year is the 75th anniversary of the festival which began in 1932, but because of war and other reasons, the festival wasn’t held every year.  It is directed this year for the fourth time by Marco M?ller and organized by the Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia .It will be held on the Lido de Venezia from 29th August to 8th September 2007.
The aim of the festival is to encourage the awareness and the promotion of all the various aspects of international cinema as art, entertainment and industry, in a spirit of freedom and tolerance. 

The Jury for the 75th anniversary will be composed entirely of directors, just like the 50th anniversary in 1982.  Jane Campion has been selected as a member of the Venezia 64 section Jury.  The Corto Cortissimo (Shorts) section Jury is Yasmine Kassari, Roberto Perpignani with Francois-Jacques Ossang as the president.

The complete list of short films selected for the Corto Cortissimo – In Competition section of the Venice Film Festival is:

Eduardo CHAPERO-JACKSON Alumbramiento – Spain 
Paddy CONSIDINE Dog Altogether – UK
Caroline COWAN Fritt Fall – Sweden
Marcal FORES Friends Forever – UK
Zoltan HORVATH Dans la peau – Switzerland / France
JUHN Jaihong Fish – South Korea / USA
Sejla KAMERIC, Timur MAKAREVIC Sta ja znam – Bosnia / Slovenia
David MICHOD Crossbow – Australia
Laszlo NEMES JELES Turelem – Hungary
Claudio NOCE Adil e Yussuf – Italy
Justyna NOWAK Wazki – Poland
Valentin POTIER Tony Zoreil – France
Leonid RYBAKOV Stone People – Russia
Matthew TALBOT-KELLY Blind Man’s Eye – Ireland
Esben TONNESEN Sykggen af Tvivl – Denmark
Sima URALE Coffee & Allah – New Zealand
Leo WOODHEAD Cargo – Czech Republic / New Zealand
ZHANG Yue Guo dao – China

For more information about the 64th Venice Film Festival visit

[release from the NZFC]

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