‘9/11 EFFECT’ FILMS EXPLORE ARAB-AMERICAN REALITY TODAY
Thu Dec 06,2007
Dubai, December 6, 2007: The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has included a special sub-section in its Arabian Nights programming segment, which is dedicated to films that depict Arab life and stories in the Middle East and around the world. This year, the segment will feature a thematic grouping of films called ‘The 9/11 Effect’ that delve in to the impact of the 2001 World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks on the lives of Arabs living in North America.
Masoud Amralla al Ali, DIFF’s Artistic Director and Coordinator General of the Muhr Awards Competition, spoke on the decision to include ‘The 9/11 Effect:’ \“Arab cinema, like that of the rest of the world, often deals with the issues that are most dire and relevant to society. This year we noticed that many films dealt with the social atmosphere for Arab immigrants in North America after September 11, 2001. We could not ignore this strong trend, and we decided to create the subsection as a timely and thought-provoking element in the festival.\”
AmericanEast focuses on three main characters, each of whom who epitomizes different aspects of Arab-American life in post-9/11 Los Angeles. Mustafa, played by co-writer Sayed Badreya (Three Kings, 1999), is a widowed Egyptian immigrant and the owner of a popular café for Middle Eastern Los Angelenos. Between his responsibilities as a single father and his struggle to find a suitor for his unwed sister Salweh, herself ambivalent about the prospect of a traditional marriage, his life is already full. But with ambitions for a better future, Mustafa plans to open a restaurant with his close friend Sam (Tony Shalhoub of Men in Black), a Jew. Their plan is one of several points of tension that lead to the explosive climax of the story. With rising light Sarah Shehi (The L Word) as Salweh and Paradise Now star Kais Nashif as a struggling actor type-cast as a terrorist, the film asks if the characters’ dreams will be shattered by suspicion or embraced by their fellow citizens.
USA vs Al-Arian asks the same question, in documentary form. The family of political activist and university professor Sami Al-Arian was thrown into a nightmare when he was arrested in 2003 for allegedly supporting terrorism. Despite never being convicted of the charges, Dr. Al Arian has not been released to this day. The film follows Sami, his wife Nahla, and their five children through the trial and after the verdict, addressing themes of freedom of speech, civil liberties, and how the media influences public opinion. Director Line Halvorsen was the only journalist with access to the family during this period, and she presents a sensitive portrayal of the impact of justice gone wrong.
The theme of wrongful confinement runs through the three short films in the 9/11 sub-segment: Al Ab Al-Mokhless (A Father Taken), Yasin and The Good Son. A Father Taken is the story of Nuri, an 8 year old Arab-American boy who refuses to accept that his father was arrested by the FBI. Convinced his father was abducted by aliens, Nuri ventures out alone to rescue him, risking his own life in the process. Yasin depicts a 10-year old whose ordinary Southern California life is turned upside down when the FBI arrest his father in a terrifying raid. Half-believing the accusations, Yassin must decide whether or not to believe in his father and accept his love. The Good Son is based on a true story from Canada. Young Ahmed is forced to translate for his father as intelligence officers question him in their home. As the interrogation becomes increasingly hostile, Ahmed must protect his family’s integrity while facing immense pressure from the agents.
‘The 9/11 Effect’ films will screen throughout DIFF 2007, which runs from December 9 to 16. Principal Sponsors are Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Pearl, Emirates and Jumeirah.
The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) was launched in December 2004 under the theme: Bridging Cultures. Meeting Minds.
DIFF is held under the honorary Chairmanship of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. DIFF is a not-for-profit cultural event, presented and organised by the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority.
As the previous editions of DIFF have demonstrated, the Festival not only presents cinematic excellence from around the world, but is also an important high-profile platform for aspiring home-grown talent.
“Bridging Cultures. Meeting Minds,” has been hailed by all as a unique and relevant theme to promote better understanding and mutual respect between different communities and countries.
Since its inception, DIFF has become an important meeting point for international and regional filmmakers and industry professionals setting the foundation for potential future collaborations.
The past three editions of DIFF have presented more than 250 films, documentaries and shorts from more than 48 countries.
In 2006 the festival took place at the magnificent Madinat Jumeirah resort. As a further commitment of DIFF’s endeavours to facilitate greater opportunities for regional Arab talent, the Muhr Awards was launched. Another first for DIFF in 2006 was the setting up of the Industry Office, which was established with a view to exclusively assist the needs of all registered delegates.
The fourth edition of the Dubai International Film Festival will take place from December 9-16 and will present the best of Arab and international cinema in the feature film, shorts and documentary formats. Building on the success of last year, DIFF 2007 will also host the Muhr Awards and the Industry Office with new features.
For any further information and regular updates on DIFF 2007 please log on to www.dubaifilmfest.com
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