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Best of contemporary Arab cinema from Iraq, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in competition at DIFF 2010

Fri Dec 03,2010

Shortlisted for the Muhr Arab Features competition from a pool of several hundred contenders, the films highlight the growing collaboration between established actors and emerging directors from the region and provide a stinging look at realities in the Arab world.

Six, Seven, Eight, the directorial debut of respected Egyptian scriptwriter Mohamed Diab, focuses on the rising tide of sexual harassment in Egypt. Told from the viewpoints of three women drawn from across Cairo’s social strata, the film follows the women as they take the law into their own hands after little response from the authorities. The film will be the DIFF 2010 Arab gala, with a red carpet screening on Dec. 13, 2010; it will also screen at MoE on Dec. 15.

Cairo Exit (El Khoroug), one of the year’s most talked about Arab films, will be the DIFF 2010 Cultural Bridge gala, with a red carpet screening on Thursday, Dec. 16. The raw drama, heralded as a bold new shift for contemporary Egyptian cinema, focuses on a pair of star-crossed lovers, a pregnant Coptic girl and her Muslim boyfriend, as they choose between misery at home or leaving via an illegal boat crossing to Europe. It will screen a second time on Dec. 18 at MoE.

From Iraq, acclaimed director Kassem Hawal captures the reality of the dictatorship era though the eyes of Bashir, a singer scheduled to perform at the palace. Due to a series of mishaps, he is delayed and scared - no one in their right mind keeps the raging commander waiting. The Singer (Le Chanteur) makes its world premiere at Cinestar, Mall of the Emirates (MoE), on Dec. 15, followed by a screening on Dec. 18.

Koutaiba Al-Janabi’s Al Raheel Min Baghdad (Leaving Baghdad) is a globe-crossing movie that follows the lonely struggle of an Iraqi refugee as he is passed on from one smuggler to the next as he tries to reach London. Tortured by memories of his life under Saddam, he soon finds that hasn’t really escaped Saddam’s reach. The movie will be screened at MoE on Dec. 13 and 16.

From Syria, Mohamad Abdulaziz’s Dimashq Ma’a Hobee (Damascus with Love) unveils a side of Damascus rarely depicted – where people from various cultures live in total harmony. The film, which follows a Syrian-Jewish girl on the verge of migrating out of Syria, will be screened at MoE on Dec. 16 and 18.

The beautifully shot and composed September Rain (Matar Ayloul), the new film from renowned Syrian actor-director Abdullatif Abdelhamid, also focuses on life in the Syrian capital. Tracing the life of a widowed fruit-seller bringing up his large, musical family, the witty and affectionate family and community drama considers survival in a world of corruption and class divides. The film will screen at MoE on Dec 15 and 17.

From Jordan comes Transit Cities (Mudon Al Transit), a brand new feature film combining the efforts of young local filmmakers and prominent Jordanian actors. The first feature film project to be supported by Jordan’s Royal Film Commission, Transit Cities looks at the social frictions within contemporary Amman created by religious extremism and globalization. The film, a world premiere, will screen on Dec. 14 and 18.

From Lebanon, Stray Georges Hachem’s drama Rsassa Taycheh (Stray Bullet) unites stars Badih Abou Chakra, Hind Taher, Nadine Labaki and Takla Chammoun in a family and psychological drama. Set in war-besieged Beirut, the film follows a thirtysomething woman single on the verge of marriage who realizes she has no feelings for her fiancé. A former lover reappears, adding to the tension within the family. The film will be screened at Mall of the Emirates on Dec. 15 and 17.

Moroccan director Jillali Ferhati returns to Dubai with Des L’aube (At Dawn), the story of two out of work actor couple yearning to stage a play in between hospital treatments and unemployment. The film will make its international premiere at MoE on Dec. 15 and will screen again on Dec. 17.

Also from Morocco is Nassim Abassi’s Majid, the story of a 10-year-old orphan shoe shiner and book seller who embarks on a journey to Casablanca to track down memories of his parents. The film, a world premiere, marks the debut of a bevy of new talent, from Moroccan director Nassim Abassi to child star Brahim al Balaki. It will screen at MoE on Dec 14 and 17.

DIFF will also screen Pegase (Pegasus), winner of the Grand Prix at the Tangiers Film Festival earlier this year. A gripping psychological drama by acclaimed Moroccan director Mohamed Mouftakir, the film depicts the suffering of a young girl who claims to have been raped by a demon. Her psychologist, attempting to treat her, is plunged into a frightening scenario. More will be revealed at the screenings at MoE on Dec. 17 and 19.

Finally, Microphone, the new film from award-winning Heliopolis director Ahmed Abdallah El-Sayed, provides a look into the thriving and hidden subculture of creativity, expression and the arts in Alexandria. The film stars Khaled Aboul Naga, Menna Shalaby, Atef Yousef, Yosra El-Lozy and Hany Adel. It will screen at First Group Theatre, Madinat Jumeirah on Dec. 15, and at DIFF’s new outdoor venue, The Walk at JBR on Dec. 17 which will be followed by concerts from two of the featured bands: Arab fusion rockers Massar Egbari and Egyptian hip-hop stars Y-Crew.

Erfan Rashid, Director of Arab Programming, Dubai International Film Festival, said: “The feature film selection at DIFF are unique in their content and narrative style. In addition to deriving inspiration from contemporary realities, the filmmakers have also sought inspiration in the region’s culture and heritage. The quality of the films make them compelling to watch, and extremely difficult for the jury to select the winners.”

Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director, Dubai International Film Festival, said: “The Muhr Arab selection is a powerful statement on the evolution of the Arab film industry in the recent past. While earlier the Arab film industry was confined to just a few countries, today, there is a remarkable participation from across the region. New contenders are challenging the norms, and embarking on a new course of filmmaking with compelling films that explore the diversity of the Arab world.”

The seventh edition of Dubai International Film Festival 2010 will be held from Dec. 12 to 19. DIFF 2010 is held in association with Dubai Studio City. Dubai Duty Free, Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline and Madinat Jumeirah are the principal sponsors of DIFF. The Festival is supported by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority.  Accreditation for DIFF 2010 is now open at www.dubaifilmfest.com.

DIFF 2010 box office locations are: CineStar Mall of the Emirates, the Madinat Souk and at the CNN Building in Dubai Media City. Tickets can also be purchased through DIFF’s Dial-a-Ticket service at (04) 391 3378 and from the website, www.dubaifilmfest.com. For more and updated information about DIFF, please visit www.dubaifilmfest.com

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