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From birth to death, personal to societal dramas, DIFF Arabian Nights selection captures the sweep of life

Wed Nov 23,2011

Dubai, UAE; November 23, 2011: The linkage between pop and propaganda, the true cross-cultural love story of a German peace campaigner and a Lebanese civil war chieftain, the making of the Egyptian revolution and the drama of everyday life in France and Montreal’s Arab communities are among the 20 subjects examined in the 8th Dubai International Film Festival’s Arabian Nights segment.

The Arabian Nights films, representing the best of filmmaking about the Arab world by Arab and non-Arab filmmakers from around the world, will screen to audiences in the UAE from December 7 to 14, 2011. They include examinations of early life and old age, societies scarred by division to attempts at reconciliation, and joyful looks at contemporary Arab music and dance.

The selection includes five world premieres, two international premieres and 13 Middle East premieres, as well as works by established and emerging talents. The films include:

In It’s All in Lebanon, Wissam Charaf traces the recent history and identity of Lebanon through its political campaigns, PR imagery and pop videos; and considers how the country has fared in nation-building through image-making. The documentary, making its world premiere in Dubai, is a must-see for all those involved in politics, advertising, public relations and the media.

The lineup includes two more world premieres from Lebanon, including Christina Foerch Saab’s Che Guevara Died in Lebanon, which is a brave, personal, cross-cultural love story and reflection on war and conflict. The film follows the director, a former peace campaigner from Germany, and her husband, a former commander haunted by the Lebanese civil war, as they piece together his past as a way to build a shared future.

Rodrigue Sleiman and Tarek El Bacha’s Nice to Meet You is in a completely different vein: it follows mythomaniac gas delivery man Eddy and his tendency to believe and repeat imaginary stories to all he meets. 

Haider Rashid’s Silence: All Roads to Music, an Italy-Iraq-UAE co-production, will also make its global debut at DIFF. The documentary follows an eclectic combination of musicians – an Australian virtuoso pianist, a Sicilian jazz musician, an accordion player and a didgeridoo and tambourine player – who meet for the first time for a one-off concert during an Arab film festival in southern Italy. Audiences in Dubai will also be able to enjoy the results.

From France, Aurel and Florence Corre’s October 1961 will make its international premiere at the Festival. The animated film focuses on the events of October 17 in Paris – when five young Algerians and three young Frenchmen were en route to a peaceful demonstration against the curfew imposed by the police prefect.

French director Stefano Savona’s Tahrir Liberation Square, premiering in the Middle East, captures the hope, despair, anger, and pride of three unexpected and young heroes as they participate in two of the most exciting weeks in the history of modern Egypt. The film is the real-time chronicle of their fight for freedom.

The Light in Her Eyes, by Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix, focuses on an entirely different kind of revolution. The documentary centres on the rarely heard story of Houda al-Habash, a conservative Muslim preacher who founded a Quran school for girls in Damascus as a 17-year-old. Houda challenges the women of her community to live according to their faith without giving up their dreams, using Islamic teachings to encourage her students to pursue higher education, jobs and public lives.

Also making its Middle East premiere is Gianni Amelio’s The First Man, based on the Albert Camus novel. The award-winning film is set in 1950s Algeria, as the war for independence puts communities against each other.  The novelist Jacques Cormery arrives to visit his aging mother, and attempts to reconcile his memories of a happier past with the bitter present.

Reconciliation is also at the heart of After the Silence, a powerful documentary that revisits the story of Jenin suicide bomber Shadi Tobassi, whose detonation at the Arab-owned Matza Restaurant in Haifa killed 15 people including Dov Chernobroda, an architect who worked his entire life to bring peace between Palestine and Israel. Eight years later, Dov’s widow visit Shadi’s family in an attempt at reconciliation. The film is directed by Stephanie Bürger, Manal Abdallah, and Jule Ott.

Also set in Palestine, Giacomo Abbruzzese’s Archipelago narrates the life of young Abed, who works in west Jerusalem illegally after passing under the separation Wall and through the sewers. On his day off, Abed decides to go home with a mysterious white box and in so doing starts an unexpected adventure.

The other 10 films will be announced shortly. All 20 films will screen in Dubai from December 8. The DIFF 2011 line-up includes 171 films from 56 nations representing the best of national, regional and world cinema.

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.

The DIFF box office will open online on Thursday, November 24 at www.dubaifilmfest.com. Additional information is also available through the Festival’s dedicated customer care number, 363 FILM (3456).

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