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Angst of revolution, charm of Arabian humour make for robust competition in Dubai International Film Festival’s Muhr Shorts

Sat Nov 12,2011

Angst of revolution, charm of Arabian humour make for
robust competition in Dubai International Film Festival’s Muhr Shorts
Filmmakers capture fleeting childhood, societal upheaval in candid, condensed tales

Dubai, UAE; November 12, 2011: The Dubai International Film Festival today announced the 15 best contemporary short films from across the Arab world that will screen to audiences and an international jury from December 7 to 14, during the eighth edition of DIFF. Shortlisted from hundreds of entries, the alternately serious and surreal films are as much a bellwether of contemporary society as they are markers of upcoming talent.

The 15 films make up this year’s Muhr Arab Shorts competition, and include eight world premieres, two international premieres and two Middle East premieres. The top three winners will walk away with accolades and US$60,000 in prizes at the end of the Festival.

Three Egyptian short films are making their world premiere at DIFF 2011. Omar El Zohairy’s Breathe Out (Zafir) is a silent drama of a man can only hear the muffled clamour from a crowded square or the deep breaths of a woman, when his window is closed.

Adham Elsherif’s Resident of the City (Ahad Sokan Elmadeena) is a humorous take on the lives of the rich and lazy contrasted with that of the blue collar workers, and Ahmed Ghoneimy’s Bahari is an experimental movie about a man wandering alone in the streets of Bahary, to collect materials for an art project. A meeting with a group of children brings out his elusive fears and desires.

Based on a true character, Egyptian filmmaker Aida Elkashef’s A Tin Tale/Hadouta Men Sag, depicts the story of a young escort called Mona Farkha. The writer and director, who know little of her world, introduce Mona to audiences through a series of interviews.

Lebanese filmmaker Wajdi Elian’s Place to Go, which makes its international premiere at DIFF, is the story of a solitary man who meets a strange street cat. Palestinian director Ziad Bakri’s The Salt Fisherman narrates the tale of a distressed fisherman trapped in the monotony of his existence.

Masseur (Attaieb) by Tunisian filmmaker Anouar Lahouar is the story of Ounaïess, a masseur who has to scrub the dead bodies of two brothers, and subsequently finds it difficult to find peace at work, while Syrian director Ammar Al-Beik’s The Sun’s Incubator (Madinat Al Shams), emphasizes how demonstrations and revolutions stem from misery, using both Egypt and Syria as examples.

From Jordan, award-winning director Mohammed Hushki and Thouraya Hamda collaborate on Crossover, the story of eight-year-old Laith, whose one friend is a yellow chick he hides at the very top of a parking facility. Laith has recently started taking a short cut to school through a nearby cemetery, forcing him to think about existential issues like death, life and relationships. 

The competition has also drawn entries from Arab filmmakers abroad. Chosen from France is Roy Arida’s Lebanon-based Ba’adana, which narrates the story of Zeina and Toufic, who have been together for many years. Things take a turn when Zeina learns that Toufic is about to leave the country. The film makes its world premiere at DIFF 2011.

The two other entries from France share the common theme of migration: Farid Bentoumi’s Burners (Brûleurs), which follows Malik, Lotfi, Mohammed, and Khalil, as they embark on a boat of fortune to cross the Mediterranean Sea; and Uda Benyamina’s Road to Paradise, the story of a mother and two children who leave their native land in the hopes of finding a better life as refugees in France.

A German entry, Noş (Cheers to You) by Soleen Yusef depicts the story of Havi and Vina, two young Kurdish Germans, who try to find a balance between the two cultures; while the Belgium/Iraq production Land of the Heroes by Sahim Omar Kalifa, shows a day in the life of 10-year-old Dileer and his sister Zienee who collect used weapons and ammunition in an abandoned war zone, so that their mother can clean them and sell them to make ends meet.

From the United Kingdom, Osama Qashoo’s Samir’s Room is a gentle, warm-hearted story set in Jerusalem. Samir comes home from college to find Israeli settlers have occupied his family home – and all his past and his memories have been taken away.

Erfan Rashid, Director of Arab Programming, Dubai International Film Festival, said: “The films in the Muhr Arab Shorts category of DIFF 2011 reflect the changes in approach to filmmaking with more directors drawing on social realities using new techniques, genres and styles.”

“While several films capture the pain and angst that have marked the tumultuous events in the Arab world, others are a celebration of the Arab sense of humour, and yet others explore the genres of adventure, fantasy and surrealism.”

Award-winning German filmmaker Andreas Dresen, Palestine filmmaker, poet and Academy Award contender Annemarie Jacir and Malaysian director and author Amir Muhammad will evaluate the entries to select the best short films and directors. All films will screen to the public in distinct shorts programmes.

The eighth edition of DIFF will be held from Dec. 7 to 14, 2011, in association with Dubai Studio City. Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline and Madinat Jumeirah, the home of the Dubai International Film Festival, are the principal sponsors of DIFF. The Festival is supported by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority.

Accreditation for the Festival is now open. For more details, log on to www.dubaifilmfest.com. For more and updated information about DIFF, please visit www.dubaifilmfest.com or join DIFF on   and
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