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Nora Armani

By ✉ webmaster@lesbellesaffiches.com

Today we meet a woman of exception: Nora Armani. Actress, filmmaker and founding artistic director of the Socially Relevant Film Festival New York, Nora graduated with an M.Sc. in Sociology from the London School of Economics. She’s now based in New York where the whole world goes for movies. Her passion? Bringing together her sociologist’s outlook and her acting skills to showcase films that deal with social issues. The task could sound impossible but Nora has deep faith and hope in the future.

Nora Armani

Hello Nora. Could you tell us about yourself? First and foremost I’m an actress. I have also directed for the stage, and make films, but I’m primarily an actress. I was born in Egypt, of Armenian parents. I studied at the American University in Cairo for my BA, then moved to England and studied at the University of London, LSE (London School of Economics) from where I graduated with an M.Sc. in Sociology. I worked as an actress on stage in London and on the BBC TV series Casualty. In Paris I worked with several theatre companies, including doing workshops with the Theatre du Soleil. I also toured with my self-penned one-woman play, “Sur le Divan avec Nora Armani” (On the couch with Nora Armani). Then I moved back to United States of America, but this time to New York. The first time I was in Los Angeles. I was acting while studying for my degree in London. I played in a number of feature films and short films. I also produced and directed films that were at the Cannes Film Festival official selection in “Un Certain Regard” as well as at the Short Film Corner. I studied Sociology at University, and trained as an actor, and now, I bring together my skills and experience to focus on the social crises through cinema. What is the story of the Socially Relevant Film Festival? I had the idea back in 2013. I was sick and tired of all the violence portrayed in movies, the guns, the explosions, the killing, crimes, and drugs. You know, I’m convinced that in United States, and probably in the rest of the world too, the visuals on the screen impact people strongly because images are very powerful! Specially kids and young adults who are very vulnerable are strongly affected. With SR, the Socially Relevant Film Festival, I wanted to offer something else, an alternative entertainment. Added to this, on the personal level, in 2004 my beloved cousin and uncle were both killed in a hate crime in Cairo perpetrated by a fundamentalist. In 2014, ten years after this terrible trauma, I wanted to do something to commemorate their memory and I voiced a revolt against violence. Not only acts of violence, but also violent forms of movie making. Now we are already preparing the third edition of the Festival for March 2016. What is the most difficult part in setting up your Festival ? The money! (laughs) To find the funding! At the beginning nobody cares about your Festival. People may love the idea but they are not ready to put their money into the project until they can be sure you are able to deliver something good, so I don’t blame them. I had to choose between dreaming about a Festival or taking a risk by putting my own money into it. So I kind of jumped into the pool and took the challenge. How many films are competing in the Socially Relevant Film Festival? For the first edition of the SR film festival we had fifty-five films from eighteen countries. In the second edition we showcased fifty-three films from thirty-three countries. In two years we screened one hundred and eight films in five theatres. For the third edition, we plan to focus on quality rather than quantity although so far we have managed quite well. The website Les Belles Affiches is about movie posters and graphic design. Do you like movie posters? Yes. A poster is very important because it is the first thing you see and it is what will make you decide whether you want to see the film or not. At the Socially Relevant Film Festival we ask the directors of the films we select for our program to send us one good image that represents their film. We tell the director to send us not many pictures but only one good picture to promote his or her movie. What is your favourite movie poster? That’s a difficult one! Well… I remember the French movie called «37°2 le matin» (Betty Blue by Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1986) It makes you really want to know the girl on the poster and see the film! In contrast to that, I hate gratuitous violence on posters, like guns, knives, blood, etc. (laughs) And what is your favourite movie? Oh God that’s another difficult one (laughs)! I like the classics like Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965). I saw Dheepan (Jacques Audiard, 2015), the winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. I admire the way the director deals with violence and the refugee crisis. I am not too fond of the minimal violence depicted in the film but it’s also a reality so we cannot dismiss it. Plus in this case it is not gratuitous. The film is really prophetic. I also loved The Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren (Simon Curtis, 2015). Its a story that incorporates war, politics and mystery. It’s very exciting!