Sat Nov 23,2013

The second group of shortlisted films for The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) Muhr Arab Feature awards was announced today, revealing a lineup of films depicting individual lives troubled by social and political change, helmed by some of the region’s most established directors.

The Muhr Arab awards were established in 2006 to nurture and reward filmmaking excellence in the Arab world and beyond. Since then, they have awarded funds to films that have gone on to capture the imagination of audiences around the world.

DIFF Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said: “The Muhr Arab Feature Awards is now established as the definitive platform for Arab film. This year’s entries come from some of the region’s most prolific directors. These master storytellers have chosen volatile material this year to show individuals living in the shadow of massive social upheaval and change. For audiences who enjoy engaging with the current realities of the region at the same time as identifying wholeheartedly with real, well-rounded characters, the Muhr Arab Features lineup is ideal.”

“Challatt of Tunis” is the latest from previous Screen Institute Beirut DIFF Documentary Award honoree Kaouther Ben Hania. This fiction film borrows documentary techniques to tell the story of the man who, in 2002, inspired terror in Tunis when he rode the city’s streets on a moped, slashing the buttocks of beautiful women. A feisty female director tries to find Challatt upon his release from jail to discover his motivations for his crimes, but each answer turns up more questions. Urban legend meets current political reality in a society where gender relations are in turmoil.

“Sotto Voce”, by Moroccan director Kamal Kamal, follows Moussa, who transports weapons, supplies and refugees from Morocco to Algeria during the Algerian War of Independence. Moussa must transfer a group of deaf-mutes across the border just the French government have constructed an electrified and heavily mined line across it. He must attempt the crossing with German communist Hans, a de-miner, which links his destiny and those of his passengers in a lethal landscape where one false step means certain death.

Mohamed Amin Benamraoui returns to the Moroccan Rif, the setting of his first film, ‘Sellam et Demetan,’ with “Adios Carmen”, a period film set in 1975. Once again invoking the innocence of childhood, “Adios Carmen” tells the story of Amar, a small Moroccan boy who waits for his mother to return from Belgium. He is introduced to the cinema by one of the Spanish immigrants who fled the civil war in their home country.

In “The Mice Room” by Nermeen Salem, Mohamed Zedan, Mohamad El-Hadidi, Mayye Zayed, Hend Bakr and Ahmed Magdy Morsy, six different characters roam in Alexandria along with their fears. Amr comes back to meet his father in his death bed, not sure how he can speak up and show his true feelings. Moussa spends his day afraid of crossing a street until he finds amends with his side of the road. Dahlia, on her wedding day, seems lost in worries about her off white marriage. The young girl discovers her grandmother’s decay through her play time. After her husband’s death, Rawya starts a habit of sleeping late, however, discovers a new exciting life at night. Maha, packing for leaving the country, starts questioning the change that happened or might happen in her life. They share the same creepy feelings in the same city but never meet.

Erfan Rashid, Director Arab Programme commented: “The lives of each of the protagonists in this year’s Muhr Arab Feature selection are closely intertwined with the changes taking place in their respective homelands. The programme, burgeoning with creativity and masterful storytelling, will acquaint filmgoers with some of the region’s most defining events over the past century, seen through the eyes of individual citizens. We are proud to see so many of the filmmakers in the programme this year return to DIFF to showcase their latest work at our milestone tenth edition, confirming the contribution of our programmes to the development of the film industry in the region.”

The Muhr Arab Feature award winners will be announced during the closing ceremonies of the tenth Dubai International Film Festival, which takes place December 6 to 14, 2013.

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