*Nabulsi is first Palestinian female filmmaker to get an Academy nomination

*DFI-funded 'The Present' has already earned a Bafta for best British short film

This year is shaping up to be outstanding in terms of diversity and representation at Oscars. Look at the Oscar nominations and there are so many firsts: two women nominated for the first time in the category of best director (Chloé Zhao for Nomadland; Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman), the first Asian-American best actor nominee (Steven Yeun for Minari), the first Muslim best actor nominee (Riz Ahmed for Sound of Metal), and the best live action short film (The Present by Farah Nabulsi), making Nabulsi the first Palestinian female filmmaker to get an Academy nomination. Farah’s The Present is a grant project of Doha Film Institute (DFI).

 The Present has already earned a Bafta for best British short film and it follows a Palestinian father as he sets out from the West Bank with his daughter, to buy a wedding anniversary gift for his wife. As the 24-minute film progresses, audiences witness the struggle of Palestinians to complete a simple task like shopping, as they encounter checkpoints, soldiers, and the reality of life under occupation.





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The short film that debuted on Netflix for public viewing on March 18 (except France and Japan and the French language speaking countries in Africa, North Africa) is available in Arabic with English subtitles. The film will be competing against Doug Roland’s Feeling Through, Elvira Lind’s short drama The Letter Room, Travon Free’s Two Distant Strangers and the Tomer Shushan – directed White Eye.
Nabulsi shot The Present in Palestine over six days that curtailed from a real Palestinian struggle and ended with a glimpse of hope – a tipoff that the world is now ready to hear and watch the stories of strength. “I am sad to say that while this film is based on reality, this is a fiction film. This isn’t even history. Yes, there is the past they need to know, but also the present,” Nabulsi said in one of her interviews. She also hinted at a full-length film currently in development.
Well, it won’t be erroneous to say that Covid-19 really altered the movie landscape in 2020. The worldwide lockdown and the ongoing closure of cinemas pressed the studios to withdraw their big awards guns leaving space and platform for comparatively smaller films and first-time filmmakers. The Oscars, like every other award show, in times with Covid-19 still raging, has had to adapt, scheduled to be held Monday at 6am Qatar time — two months from its originally scheduled date. But unlike Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, in which nominees and winners appeared on Zoom, the Oscars will go ahead as an in-person event with Covid-19 SOPs in place.
According to the official statement by the Academy Awards – the ceremony will be split between two locations: the Dolby Theatre LA and Union Station (a location that has been featured in over 150 films). The nominees have been asked for an extended pre-recorded acceptance speech that tell a narrative story and have been invited to turn up at the venue of the Oscars itself.
Only a few details have emerged of what is being planned for the 2021 show. In December, the Ocean’s Eleven director Steven Soderbergh was hired as one of the producers of the show and a high profile statement of intent to ‘re-envision’ the telecast of the ceremony was issued. Having seen the technical glitches during Golden Globes, the producers had initially planned a ‘zoom-free’ event, however, they were forced to backpedal as it became significant that majority of the nominees are based outside US that could prevent them from attending the show in person due to Covid travel restrictions. This led to establishment of hubs in London and Paris to allow remote participation.
The audience has been capped at just 170 people, much lower than the usual thousands who attend and it's believed that they'll be rotated in and out of the event space throughout the evening.
According to USA Today, the producer and organiser of Oscars 2021, Stacey Sher, said at a virtual press conference that this year there won't be a traditional red carpet. "It's not a traditional red carpet, it's a teeny-tiny red carpet. It's a very small footprint for safety reasons, obviously," she said.
Additionally, this year the awards will be given out in person, and all the famous attendees will not be required to wear face masks while the cameras are rolling, as per the protocols set by the state of California for television and film production. This means that people who won't appear on the camera will have to put their face masks on with the crew. For nominees and guests to attend the ceremony, which is taking place at Union Station and Dolby Theatre, they’ll need to clear three Covid tests along with a temperature check on the day of the event.

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