DIFF’s Docs Windows into Other Worlds

Mon Dec 11,2006

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has hand-picked a selection of award-winning documentaries for the 2006 edition of its Destination Documentary programming.

Lucia Rikaki, DIFF’s Artistic Director of International Programming, said, “documentaries have gained in popularity over the last few years, often rivaling feature films at the box office. Far from being dry or journalistic, documentaries can capture the rawness of human experience in a way that fiction films can never replicate.”

She continued, “these independent filmmakers put themselves in the same situations as their subjects, and in many cases have risked their lives to do so. Their passion for their subjects and deep respect for their situations is communicated through the intensity of their films, which manage to move the audience and prove that a critical window to the world can be extremely interesting and effective, far beyond the usual TV voyeurism.”

Many of the documentaries this year centre on conflict in the Middle East. Andrew Berends’ Blood of My Brother also explores Iraqi life, in intimate footage of a Shia family whose eldest son was killed by an American patrol. The younger brother, Ibrahim, is torn by a practical dilemma: he itches to join the militias and avenge his brother’s death, but must support his family as the sole breadwinner.

Director Andrew Berends will be in attendance when his film screens at 7:30 pm on Friday, December 15 at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 7, at 7:30 pm on Saturday, December 16 at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 11, and at 3:30 pm on Sunday, December 17 at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 11.

My Country, My Country follows one man, Dr. Riyadh, a medical doctor, Sunni political candidate, and father of six, as the country quickly unravels around him. A passionate believer in due political process, he watches as his hospital rooms fill up with the wounded and the promise of democracy seems an increasingly distant dream. Director/Cinematographer Laura Poitras spent 8 months in Baghdad following Dr. Riyadh. This is the portrait of a sane man in a surreal, insane environment.

Director Laura Poitras will be in attendance when My Country, My Country screens at 6:30 on Wednesday, December 13 at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 8, at 2:00 pm on Thursday, December 14 at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 8, and at 3:00 pm on Saturday, December 16 at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 9.

Martyr Street is named after the road in Hebron, Palestine, that leads to the Tomb of Abraham, a holy place for Muslims, Christians and Jews. Two 13-year olds live on either side of this street: Neria, the daughter of Jewish settlers, and Palestinian Najilah. Director Shelly Saywell met the two girls in 2000, at the beginning of the Intifada, and caught up with them again 5 years later, when they had become hardened young women. Martyr Street is a sobering reflection on hate and violence.

Martyr Street will screen at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, December 12 and at 1:15 pm on Friday, December 15. Both screenings at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 11.

American Fugitive: the Truth About Hassan, is a documentary that has proved controversial in filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond’s Canada, where Lafond is married to Canada’s Governal General, Michaëlle Jean. The film is a portrait of David Belfield alias Dawud Salahuddin alias Hassan Abdulrahman, who has graced the FBI’s most wanted list since he shot and killed Akbar Tabatabai, press attaché to the former Shah of Iran, in response to a fatwah by the Ayatollah Khomeini. He played himself, an African-American physician living in rural Afghanistan, in Mohsen Makmalbaf’s Kandahar, and in American Fugitive, he holds forth from his unique position to discuss the Black Power movement, his conversion to Islam, and US-Iranian relations.
American Fugitive: the Truth About Hassan will screen on Thursday, December 14 at 10:00 pm at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 7.

Our Daily Bread stands alone in the Destination Documentary section, in that it deals with a completely different part of human experience from the other films: the mass production of food in factories, animated slaughterhouses and laboratories around the world. Director Nikolaus Geyrhalter has created a montage of wide-angle, meticulously composed images that depict the way food is mass-produced around the world. Without commentaries or interviews, the film shows the production of food as a reflection of societal values: efficiency, hygiene and reliance on machine labour.   

Our Daily Bread will screen at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, December 12 at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 8, Thursday, December 14 at 6:45 pm at Mall of the Emirates Theatre 9, and 12:45 pm on Friday, December 15 at Mall of the Emirates 10.

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