Hard-hitting reality and human resilience stories form basis of Arabian Nights at DIFF 2009

Sun Nov 15,2009

A series of hard-hitting films featuring diverse storylines from across the Arab world will be screened as part of the Arabian Nights programming during DIFF 2009.

Antonia Carver, Arab Programme Consultant said the Arabian Nights repertoire is a reality-check on contemporary Arab and Middle East society through the lens eye.

“What is heartening is the diversity and creativity of the filmmakers, who find poignant, warm, even witty, moments full of hope, amid the most hard-hitting of narratives. These films are true pictures of the ‘Arab world’ in its widest sense – from Sydney to Paris, Berlin and London, via Gaza and the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan,” she said.

My Father, My Uncle, by Christoph Heller, is a moving documentary chronicling the life of 28-year-old Iraqi-German Sinan, who travels to Sharjah to meet his long-lost father’s family. After being adopted at birth by his uncle and German wife, the couple separate and Sinan is taken by his mother to Darmstadt, Germany, where he has lived ever since. The film reflects on family ties, cultural differences and the bond between parents and their children.

Director Jacques Audiard brings Un Prophete (A Prophet), about a young man sent to a French prison where he becomes a mafia kingpin. The young Arab man, Malik is sentenced to six years in prison. But he is not only smaller and weaker than his toughened contemporaries inside, Malik is also completely illiterate. But he is brave and a fast learner and soon is secretly plotting a dangerous and audacious master plan of his own, using the force of his magnetic personality.

Whisper with the Wind by Iranian/Kurdish director Shahram Alidi is a strange, surreal and allegorical tale of Mam Baldar, a very unusual postman who travels among the mountainous villages of Iraqi Kurdistan recording and delivering people’s messages. Through Mam’s journeys, the director brings out the suffering of Iraqi Kurds over recent decades and offers a spellbinding phantasmagoric narrative.

Apres La Chute (After the Downfall) focuses on Kurdish exile Azad, who invites fellow exiles over to celebrate the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, but as the TV images unfold, the initial joy becomes fused with ongoing tensions and betrayals. The documentary-style character drama comes from award-winning Hiner Saleem.

Another historically significant event, the Israeli attack on Gaza Strip in January 2009 and subsequent barricade of Palestinian citizens, forms the context for two powerful films.

Piombo Fuso (Cast Lead) features footage taken by Italian film-maker Stefano Savona on January 6, 2009, the eleventh day of the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, with the district barricaded and no one able to get in or out. It captures the poignant and tragic vignettes of daily life in Gaza, during the last tragic days of operation.

To Shoot An Elephant, by Mohammad Rujailah and Alberto Arce, is inspired by the George Orwell essay of the same name, and documents the human cost of Israel’s 2009 assault on Gaza. Based on uncompromising and often harrowing footage actually filmed inside Gaza during ‘Operation Cast Lead’, this precious, eye-witness account was created by foreign journalists, witnesses and aid workers, embedded with the Gazan emergency services. Through their brave actions, we witness the true human cost of the offensive, and the courage and resilience of those who faced it.

Checkpoint Rock: Canciones Desde Palestina (Checkpoint Rock: Songs from Palestine) by Fermin Muguruza is altogether more joyous in tone, with singers Habib Al Deek and Muthana Sha’baan, rappers DAM and Safaa Arapiyat, celebrated Le Trio Joubran and soul singer Amal Murkus providing an insight into Palestine’s contemporary music scene. The journey starts with footage of Marcel Khalife reading at Mahmoud Darwish’s funeral, and the spirit of the late, great poet pervades the film. The screening will be followed by a live jam, featuring director Muguruza alongside some of the key artistes from the film.

The son of a world-renowned Iraqi writer struggles with his conscience and his assassinated father’s legacy in another world premiere at DIFF, Tangled Up In Blue, a drama of urban alienation set in austere yet chaotic London, directed by Haider Rashid. The protagonist plans to publish a book which exploits his assassinated father’s name, while wrestling with his unrequited love for his best friend.

Good Morning, Aman breaks the regional mould, and is a tense drama from award-winning Italian shorts director Claudio Noce set in the underworld of Rome’s Somali immigrants. Cinematographer Michele D’Attanasio’s documentary-style, handheld camera weaves its way through the city’s underbelly, and a tense, original screenplay, makes for a highly original debut.

Nabil Ben Yadir’s Les Barons (The Barons) is an oddly profound comedy about a trio of indolent street philosophers trying to keep reality at bay in downtown Brussels. In this brilliant debut feature, Yadir serves up the wisecracks with a generous dose of cheeky humour, social comment and whip-smart wit.

Cedar Boys by Serhat Caradee is a gritty and engrossing feature set amidst Australia’s working class Lebanese community. It is an authentic, compelling and adrenaline-charged ride into the lives of young men of Middle Eastern descent struggling to get by in modern-day Australia.

Now in its sixth year, DIFF 2009 is held in association with Dubai Studio City and will be held from December 9 to 16.  Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline and Madinat Jumeirah are the principal sponsors of DIFF and the event is supported by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).

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