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What is Greenhouse?

For the past eight years, an international consortium comprised of The New Fund for Cinema and Television (Israel); Ankara Cinema Association (Turkey); the VOF Appel & Honigmann (The Netherlands); Canal France International (France); Bruni Burres (USA); Zampa Productions (Spain); and ESAV Marrakech - the Marrakesh School of Visual Arts (Morocco) has overseen The Greenhouse Development Program for Documentary Filmmakers from the Middle East and North Africa, a groundbreaking initiative positioned at the intersection of media, social change and peace-building. The program seeks to nurture a diverse and sustainable community of young documentary filmmakers from across the Middle East and North Africa and support them in developing the skills necessary to create powerful films that advance a more just, democratic and peaceful region.

scorseseThrough their dynamic participation in this program combined with meaningful dialogue with other participants, these emerging filmmakers complete the Greenhouse program equipped to become leading storytellers and artists in the region, as well as social change agents in their own communities.

Greenhouse filmmakers are not afraid to cast a critical eye on their own societies and cultures. Their films have tremendous potential for social engagement and lasting impact, and encompass diverse themes such as human rights, social justice, the Arab Spring, and gender discrimination. A prominent example of the kind of film emerging from Greenhouse is 5 Broken Cameras, the Palestinian/Israeli co-production focusing on the non-violent resistance movement in the West Bank. An extraordinary piece of cinema and social activism, the film won the 2013 International Emmy Award in the Documentary Category and was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2013 Academy Awards.

How Do We Work? 

Greenhouse brings together passionate and courageous filmmakers from our fascinating but fraught region. These filmmakers possess a deep understanding of the issues being faced by their own societies. Greenhouse supports them in the development and creation of compelling creative documentaries that illuminate the social and political realities of our region.

Greenhouse has a convincing track record for identifying ideas that have the potential to become outstanding and influential films. Each year, following a thorough and professional review process, we select up to 24 Greenhouse participants working on 12-15 films. Through an intensive but incredibly rewarding program spanning one year and three in-depth seminars in Morocco, the filmmakers are supported as they develop their preliminary written ideas into a consolidated project that is ready for production and includes a high-quality trailer.

Greenhouse filmmakers receive individual and continuing support from our inspirational and dedicated mentors, leading figures in the documentary film world, as they develop their film ideas. They participate in hands-on seminars including master classes on storytelling, scriptwriting, and pitching to an international market. They enjoy the support of a vibrant and sustainable community of talented filmmakers from the region and world-renowned film professionals. Many Greenhouse filmmakers come from countries where freedom of expression is severely restricted; they are therefore greatly enriched by the open, cross-cultural dialogue and exchange of ideas fostered through the program.

By the time they graduate from Greenhouse, the filmmakers have honed their skills, prepared a high-quality production file, and pitched their projects before an audience that includes top potential investors from the international market.

Deeply committed to the successful completion and distribution of Greenhouse films, we work with our filmmakers way beyond the life span of each Greenhouse program. We continue to provide creative, technical, and moral support to our filmmakers through every stage of their projects, frequently connecting them with international producers, broadcasters and funders to assist them to complete their films.

What Have We Accomplished?

Since its inception, Greenhouse has trained more than 130 filmmakers from the region, empowering them to use film as a catalyst for creating more open and just societies. Greenhouse's reputation is such that top industry figures consistently attend our pitching forums so as to ensure access to the best documentaries emerging from the region.

The core elements that make up Greenhouse have proven to be a winning combination, and the results speak for themselves: Of 85 film concepts subjected to the full Greenhouse process, 21 films have been completed, one film was nominated for the Oscars and won an International Emmy Award, and an additional 30% are in advanced stages of production. This is an extraordinarily high completion rate for a documentary development program, and a reflection of our enormous investment in ensuring that our films get made and funded. Greenhouse films, such as On the Way to School, A Film Unfinished, and 5 Broken Cameras, explore a rich diversity of socially relevant issues and have had a concrete and lasting impact in the region and around the world. Most of them have premiered and won awards at prestigious film festivals such as Sundance, Berlinale, IDFA, Hot Docs, Cinema Du Reel, and Movies That Matter, to name just a few.

Behind Our Mission

Decades of violent conflict in the Middle East have created a fertile breeding ground for stereotypes, prejudices, cognitive biases, fear and mistrust of the “other” within Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Turkey and the broader region. The longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict exacerbates the forces of instability and extremism in the Middle East, and thwarts effective regional cooperation in multiple spheres. The hostility that exists between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Israelis and their Arab neighbors, is perpetuated by the separation between the different populations and the lack of opportunities for interaction and familiarity. These mutual fears and prejudices are often sustained and strengthened by political leaders, the media, education systems and extremists. Such deeply entrenched negative attitudes constitute socio-psychological barriers that impede progress toward conflict mitigation, peace and reconciliation. The internal divisions and tensions that exist within each country lead to further instability in the region.

In the wake of the popular uprisings that have swept the Middle East for the past two years, the region is now positioned at a historical crossroad, facing both tremendous challenges and opportunities. The protests were driven by the people’s demands for their fundamental rights and freedoms, and their aspirations for a stronger voice in their own governance. As the people in the region discovered the power of their collective voice and struggle, politics in the region underwent a game-changing transformation. Whilst the Arab Spring has engendered unprecedented opportunities for reform and democratization, transitioning countries such as Egypt and Tunisia still face many challenges – including chronic socioeconomic problems – that threaten to derail progress. The uncertainty that currently prevails in the region and the ongoing crisis in Syria are potential catalysts for further violent conflict and extremism. 

By facilitating the exchange of information and opinions in real time, and connecting activists with domestic and international audiences, new and traditional media played a crucial role within the Arab Spring. Nonetheless, the region’s level of media freedom remains the worst in the world. Free and independent media is a cornerstone of stable democracies; restrictions on freedom of expression deny people the right to access and express diverse information and opinions, thereby blocking meaningful political reform and perpetuating the conditions for unrest. 

Although women were actively involved in the social protest movements and demonstrations that engulfed the region, they continue to face an uphill battle with regard to accessing their full rights. Women in the Middle East occupy a subordinate status within their societies as a result of entrenched discrimination in both laws and societal norms. Nonetheless, the recent changes to the cultural and political landscapes in the region have injected new momentum into the struggle to advance gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the engagement of women as agents of peace and stability.

Looking Ahead

Until now, 80% of the program's funding has been provided by the European Union; however, the funding from the EU ended on December 31, 2013. The EU is currently assessing how it will distribute its funding for cultural programs from 2015-2020.

The total estimated budget for the one-year program in 2014/2015 is $500,404. With the help of generous supporters such as The Righteous Persons Foundation, we have successfully raised 60% of the total annual budget and we are currently working intensively to secure other major funding sources. On June 1st, 2014, we launched our call for applications for the 2014-2015 Greenhouse program; any support that we can gain for Greenhouse will enable this year’s program to go ahead without delays.