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Cinema reopens in Za’atari refugee camp after four-year closure

Jordan Daily – The cinema at Al-Za’atari Refugee Camp reopened Wednesday after a four-year closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reopening, announced by UNICEF and the French Embassy in partnership with the French Institute in Jordan and the Royal Film Commission of Jordan, featured the screening of Jordan’s first feature-length animated film, “Saleem.”

“Today marks a special occasion as we reopen the cinema in Al-Za’atari refugee camp,” said Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF representative to Jordan. “In a place where recreational and cultural activities for children are scarce, the importance of bringing back the power of cinema to support their education, awareness, and entertainment cannot be overstated.”

Duamelle added in a statement , “Today we reopen not only the doors of a building but to a world of imagination, learning, and laughter for children. This was made possible through a partnership established with the French Embassy, the French Institute in Jordan, and the Royal Film Commission, whom we are grateful to for their support.”

The 114-seat cinema, originally opened in October 2019 in partnership with the French association “Lumière à Zaatari,” was closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Refurbishment work funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs has now been completed, allowing the cinema to host film screenings, as well as cultural and educational activities for children and their families.

“For 13 years, France has remained committed to supporting Syrians and host countries of refugees,” said Alexis Le Cour Grandmaison, French Ambassador to Jordan. “This support focuses primarily on the humanitarian field but also encompasses culture.”

Le Cour Grandmaison added, “We are delighted that funding from the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs can bring this incredible place back to life. For the coming year, the Institut français de Jordanie will offer a rich and varied program of cinematic, cultural, and educational events at Al-Zaatari cinema.”

“We are pleased to be partners in reopening the Za’atari Cinema Project,” said Mohannad Al-Bakri, managing director of the Royal Film Commission. “We hope that the results of this project will give an opportunity for the audience, especially children, to learn about concepts related to cinema and narrative.”

Al-Bakri also expressed hopes that the training programs in the project would showcase talents from within Za’atari camp, resulting in cinematic stories the world will see in the future.

The film “Saleem” was introduced by director Cynthia Madanat Sharaiha and producer Shadi Sharaiha, and was received with great enthusiasm by the children, demonstrating the cinema’s impact on their lives.

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