Revived art-house label creates strategically important domestic distribution outlet for Arab cinema.
MAD Solutions has extended the global reach of its theatrical distribution operations for Arab cinema after assuming an equity ownership stake in the revived New York City-based arthouse distributor D Street Releasing.
The deal gives MAD, already a prolific distributor of independent Arab feature-length and short films across the entire Arab-speaking world, a critical inroad into the competitive art-house sector in the United States, where Arab cinema has been largely reliant on festival exposure until now.
Under the new partnership, MAD Solutions intends to release five to seven films each year by top-notch storytellers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arabic speaking countries to North American audiences.
D Street Releasing, which has been largely dormant in recent years, is a division of D Street Media Group, a production, distribution and music publishing company with affiliate operations in the U.S., Germany, Ecuador, Argentina and South Africa.
MAD co-founders Alaa Karkouti and Maher Diab met D Street’s founding CEO Dexter Davis and partner Silvana Santamaria at last year’s inaugural Red Sea International film festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and conversations about a company that could bring greater attention to stories from the Arab speaking world and the wider African continent to North America soon ensued.
Speaking about the deal, Dexter Davis, CEO of D Street Media Group said: “After taking a break from the theatrical distribution business, I’m extremely excited about this reboot with visionary partners Alaa and Maher, who both bring with them a wealth of regional experience, creative connections and marketing knowledge to the company. This historic partnership will give US audiences the opportunity to understand better our Arab brothers and sisters through powerful stories. Breaking stereotypes and prejudices is a key part of our mandate and with the support and resources from MAD Solutions, I believe we can achieve that goal,” said
The newly relaunched company has already acquired five titles to release theatrically in 2022 and is actively looking for a few more “gems.” The five titles include Daughters of Abdulrahman, which won an audience award at the San Diego Arab Film Festival and the Audience Award at Cairo International Film Festival, Streams, which had several screenings at international festivals, including Locarno and Zurich, and Barra El Manhag, which had its world premiere at the closing ceremony of the inaugural edition of Red Sea International Film Festival. In addition to two Saudi horror projects The Last Exorcist, by Asim Altokhais, which is based on the director’s comic book of the same name, and Al Azeef by Mohamed Al-Youssef.
Alaa Karkouti, CEO of MAD Solutions remarked: “It’s great to be based in Egypt and be able to gain an important foothold in the American distribution marketplace through D Street Releasing. We’ve learned so much operating and growing MAD Solutions and believe we can draw on that accumulated experienced and honed skill sets to advance Dexter and Silvana’s agenda for acquiring content from the Arab world, especially those exciting voices now coming from Saudi Arabia.
“Arab cinema is just the starting point. I know there are many films from Africa and Europe that never make it to the US and we certainly want to pick up where the company left off and open new theatrical pathways to good stories from everywhere,” added Karkouti.
Like other distributors in the arthouse or specialised business, D Street’s team plans to attend the important markets in Europe and the United States but focus more on North Africa and the Middle East when it comes to their travel schedule.
“Arab filmmakers should know they now have a strong partner in the United States and Canada, one that believes their voices should be heard in one of the most important film markets in the world,” commented Maher Diab, co-founder of MAD. “For us, the opportunity to change hearts and minds with stories from diverse communities is a dream, especially in America which itself is a melting pot of different cultures and religions.”
Both Karkouti and Diab will join the board of D Street Releasing. Also involved in the strategic plans for the new partnership will be Colin Brown, the New York-based media analyst who is a managing partner (international) of MAD Solutions.
At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, MAD Solutions is premiering the Tunisian feature film Under the Fig Tree”, directed by Erige Sehiri in the Directors’ Fortnight section. It is also the creative force and operational force behind the Arab Cinema Centre, the regional umbrella presence for Arab cinema that has a prominent market stand in the Palais.