First Array of Compelling Cinema to Celebrate New Perspectives on the Middle East with Arabian Nights
Mon Oct 17, 2016

Arab and international filmmakers voice the cultural diversity of the Middle East

Dubai, 17 October 2016: The 13th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) have today announced the first films showcasing in the iconic Arabian Nights programme, which pays homage to the cultural vibrancy of the ever-changing Arab world. This year’s rich selection of eclectic films to exhibit in the popular category originate from around the globe, including Lebanon, Italy, Germany and France.

First to be announced to the screens of DIFF is Lebanese director Sophie Boutros’s highly anticipated world premiere of ‘Solitaire’. Starring Julia Kassar, Ali El Khalil and Bassam Koussa, an exaggerated theme of prejudice adds a comical twist to a Lebanese family’s dark dilemma. Still haunted with grief from the heartbreaking loss of her beloved brother, who was tragically killed by a Syrian army explosion during the Civil War, Therese, Julia Kassar, excitedly prepares for the anticipated visit of her daughters suitor and his family. As the wife of a mayor of a small village in Lebanon, she is unable to contain her joy until her long-awaited guests arrive to unexpectedly cause conflict and heartache.

Joining Boutros with a story also influenced by Lebanese heritage is Hadi Ghandour with a comedy drama ‘The Traveller’ starring Rodrigue Sleiman, Donia Eden, Aïda Sabra and Romy Melhem. Adnan’s monotonous role as a travel agent in a remote Lebanese village leaves him fantasizing about exploring the globe, although he has regretfully never been in a position to leave his homeland. When finally faced with a fortunate opportunity to visit Paris, he does not hesitate to leave his wife and child to pursue his lifelong dream. However Adnan soon finds himself totally immersed in a real-life fantasy when the young, attractive Layla enters his world, fueling a strange and troubling infatuation. Distracted by city life and his intoxication with Layla, he loses sight of his true self and those he has left behind.

‘The Challenge’ by Italian visual artist Yuri Ancarani, whose renowned work derives from the merging of contemporary and documentary filmmaking, delves into the world of modern Arab life. Urban meets the desert as Ancarani follows a talented falconer to a vital tournament, capturing the spirit of the prestige tradition during an intense, eye-opening weekend in the heart of Qatar’s desert.

DIFF welcomes French director Henri Bargès with the world premiere of ‘Nuts’, an eventful tale of taboo featuring acclaimed actors Darine Hamze, Gabriel Yammine, Hassan Mrad and Alexandra Kahwagi. This dark comedy follows the hectic lives of two ruthless Lebanese women who fall in love with gambling whilst seeking to escape their tedious married lives. Plummeting into a loop of addiction the duo faces dangerous obstacles whilst fighting to regain freedom at any cost.

Influenced by the heritage of Iraqi director Soleen Yusef, ‘House Without Roof’ follows the intense adventure of three siblings; played by Mina Özlem Sağdıç, Sasun Sayan and Murat Seven, who originate from Kurdistan but grew up in Germany, reuniting for the first time since childhood with the purpose of fulfilling their late mother’s last wish, to be buried in her home town. The audience is taken on an emotional rollercoaster, following each of the aggravated siblings as they embark on personal journeys in search of their homeland and true identity. Confronted by their obnoxious Kurdish family, who set out to sabotage their plans, the frustrated three must overcome both their individual and group quarrels in order to retain hope and their family bond.

Following the success of the critically acclaimed film ‘Hold Back’, DIFF welcomes back French director Rachid Djaïdani with his second feature film ‘French Tour’. Featuring Louise Grinberg, the film offers audiences a unique perspective on the reconciliation between contrasting generations and cultures. Following a violent clash with a rival, 20 year old budding rapper, Far’Hook, played by the renowned Sadek, reluctantly shelters in Paris with middle-aged Serge, Gérard Depardieu. As the two opposing personalities embark on an implausible road trip, the confrontational atmosphere dissolves as they learn to coexist regardless of their obvious differences. An unexpected bond is formed that will expand horizons and lead audiences to identify with the two lifestyles.

Obaidah Zytoon, Syrian radio host and producer, and Andreas Dalsgaard, Danish director, will take DIFF audiences on a journey of the unimaginable with their feature ‘The War Show’. A deeply personal documentary of Syrian conflict as Zytoon and her small group of friends, Amal, Houssam, Lulu and Hisham, shot true, intimate footage of their lives as activists during the Arab Spring. Documenting extremism and repression, audiences will glimpse the hope and experience the defeat as Syrian hopes for a better future are crumbled by violence, oppression and death.

A unique documentary by German filmmakers Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine, ‘Gaza Surf Club’ is set in the war-ridden city of Gaza where the ruined landscape juxtaposes with images of the serene sea. For some of the young residents who are trapped in this dark world, including Sabah Abu Ghanem, Mohammed Abu Jayab and Ibrahim Arafat, surfing is a form of escapism. The beach provides somewhat of an unrestricted space to relieve the fears of everyday life, even if only for a short while.

Masoud Amralla Al Ali, DIFF’s Artistic Director commented on the dynamic programme: “Arabian Nights offers a powerful means of conveying social messages to audiences from every corner of the globe, a notion that DIFF believes is the key to successfully uniting cultures. This year’s stellar line up of films address insightful, culturally-enriching perspectives on the developing regional landscape shared through the medium of film.”

Delphine Garde-Mroueh, Arabian Nights Programmer notes: “As one of DIFF’s long-standing categories, Arabian Nights captures the essence of the Festivals vision by providing an established platform for Arab and international filmmakers to connect to their heritage and tell stories that address controversial disputes in the Arab world with compassion and creativity.”

Registration is now open for media, students and industry professionals for the 13th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival which will take place from the 7th December – 14th December, 2016.