Dubai International Film Festival’s Enjaaz fund boosts portfolio with Venice, Toronto global debuts for Habibi Rasak Kharban

Tue Aug 23,2011

Love story co-produced by Palestine, UAE, USA and Netherlands is modern interpretation of 7th century Arabian classic Majnun Layla

Dubai, UAE; August 23, 2011: Habibi Rasak Kharban, a Gaza love story supported by Enjaaz, the post-production fund of the Dubai International Film Festival, will make its world premiere at the 68thVenice Film Festival later this month, followed by its North American premiere at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in early September.

A Palestine-UAE-USA-Netherlands co-production, the film will make its first appearance in the Arab world in Dubai later this year. The eighth edition of DIFF, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, will be held from December 7 to 14, 2011.

Set in Gaza in 2001, Habibi Rasak Kharban (Darling, Something’s Wrong with Your Head) is a modern retelling of the famous Sufi parable Majnun Layla and its related body of poetry dating back to the 7th century and Bedouin poet Qaysibn al-Mulawwah. The film follows college students Layla, a resident of the conservative town of Khan Younis, and Qays, a resident of the neighboring refugee camp. Forced to return to a closed-off Gaza and the disapproval of their families after university in the West Bank, Qays tries to reach Layla by graffiting love poetry to her all over the walls of their town – setting off an avalanche of consequences.

Directed, written, edited and produced by Susan Youssef, the story of forbidden love won a coveted berth in the Enjaaz programme in 2010. The Enjaaz post-production fund awards up to US$100,000 each for up to 15 documentary and fiction feature films in development every year.

Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director, Dubai International Film Festival, said: “The international acclaim earned by films identified and supported by DIFF underlines the quality of our selection process, our dedication to Arab, Asian and African filmmakers the world over, our reputation as a springboard to global success for these deserving films and our success as a destination for discovery of pan-Arab and regional cinema. It is an honor for us to raise the UAE’s flag high as a true supporter of Arab cinema around the world.”

Director Susan Youssef said: “Habibi is made 100% through grants, donations and supporters including Enjaaz, and we are deeply indebted to the Dubai International Film Festival and the Dubai Film Market team for their unstinting support and belief in this project.

Habibi is a film that challenges prejudice and works towards universal human rights, challenging the stereotype of the oppressed Arab woman; providing a depiction of an evolving Palestinian society; showing the world what happens in Gaza; and finally showing that at the basis of Arab society is a desire for an expression of love, not violence.”

The film also integrates the contemporary political situation in Gaza, by situating the love story and a poetic tradition in the reality of Palestinian resistance. One of the subplots, for example, involves Qays’ brother joining Hamas.

For Youssef, named one of Filmmaker magazine’s “25 New Faces” to watch, the film marks her debut as a feature director. Her previous five short films have also been screened at a spectrum of festivals from Sundance to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

Launched in 2009, the Enjaaz programme has supported more than 10 Arab and Arab-origin films including Egypt’s Cairo Exit, the UAE’s Hamama and Iraq’s Leaving Baghdad. The programme works via two funding cycles, with deadlines in February 1 and August 1. The new Enjaaz shortlist will be announced later this year.

DIFF is held in association with Dubai Studio City. Dubai Duty Free, Dubai International Financial Centre, 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.


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