Arab documentary filmmakers examine buried, recent history in Dubai International Film Festival’s Muhr Awards

Thu Nov 17,2011

Dubai, UAE; November 17, 2011: Nine powerful documentaries from the Arab world that draw on contemporary and historical social and political realities are among the 15 contending for the top honours at the eighth Dubai International Film Festival to be held from December 7 to 14, 2011.

The documentaries, by Arab filmmakers from Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Germany, France, Lebanon, Tunisia, Sudan, and Jordan, shed light on several defining moments in modern Arab history – from the Arab Spring to the birth of a new nation - as well as flashbacks on seminal moments in history that left a lasting, often painful, impression. The lineup so far comprises six world premieres, one international premiere, one Middle East premiere, and one GCC Premiere. The six additional films in the Muhr Arab Documentary competition will be announced next week.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the Festival is showcasing features, documentaries and shorts by Arab filmmakers for the Muhr Arab Awards, which are judged by an international jury comprising eminent filmmakers and professionals. Members of the public can also vote for their favourite film in the DIFF People’s Choice Award.

The Muhr Arab Documentary shortlist includes:

Yasmina Adi’s Here We Drown Algerians – October 17, 1961, which sheds light on the events of the day when thousands of Algerians from Paris and suburbs marched, in response to the call of the National Liberation Front, against the curfew imposed upon them. The film will make its international premiere at DIFF.

Algerian director Abdenour Zahzah’s Andalucia unfolds the birth of the Andalusian music which has been passed from generation to generation after the fall of Grenada in 1942; while Egyptian filmmaker Heba Yossry’s Grandma Zad: My First Passion (Settou Zad: My First Passion) unveils the life of the prolific singer Shahrazad, as seen through the eyes of her granddaughter. Both films will make their world premiere at DIFF.

Lebanese filmmaker Hady Zaccak’s Marcedes, also making its world premiere at DIFF, is a feature biopic chronicling the history and transformation of a country, from the perspective of a car, and the family that owns it. The iconic Mercedes Ponton 180 arrives in Lebanon in 1960, and survives to witness the country’s evolution.

Jordan’s Aseel Mansour’s Uncle Nashaat (Amu Nashaat) unravels the search of a nephew, who embarks on a quest to reveal the facts behind the murder of his uncle, including the broken relationship he shared with his father. The film will make its world premiere at DIFF.

Tunisian director Mourad Ben Cheikh’s No More Fear (La Khaoufa Baada Al ‘Yaoum [Plus Jamais Peur] charts the Tunisian revolution as witnessed by Lina Ben Mhenni, a blogger, who challenged the establishment through hard-hitting blogs. The film will be screened in the Middle East for the first time.

Syrian director Ammar Al-Beik’s Aspirin and a Bullet (Aspirin wa Rassassa), making its world premiere, is a concise autobiography of his father’s life, charting the 40-year-long therapy session of a man who tried to commit suicide twice: once using Aspirin, and the other with a bullet.

Akram Hidou’s Halabja – The Lost Children, an Iraqi and German co-production, which will be screened in the GCC for the first time, depicts the story of Ali, who returns to Kurdistan 21 years after Saddam Hussein’s poison gas attack in 1988, to find his family.

From Sudan, Taghreed Elsanhouri’s Our Beloved Sudan documents the political destiny of the country, from its independence in 1956 to the partition in 2011, juxtaposing a personal narrative, which seeks to understand how the people of Sudan made their peace with the inevitable partition. The film will make its world premiere at DIFF.

Erfan Rashid, Director of Arab Programming, Dubai International Film Festival, said: “Documentaries are regarded as films with a conscience – depicting hard truths and harsh realities that are seldom captured by any other medium. The documentaries short-listed for the Muhr Arab Awards will serve as a great window into how the lives of people are affected by the changes around them.”

Additional titles in the Muhr Arab Documentary lineup will be announced later this week. All DIFF films will be screened at VOX Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates, or at the Madinat Jumeirah. The DIFF Box Office opens November 22, 2011.

The eighth edition of DIFF will be held 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 For more and updated information about DIFF, please visit

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