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ARABIAN NIGHTS 2013:  ALL EYES ON THE ARAB WORLD

Tue Nov 19,2013

The Dubai International Film Festival’s (DIFF) long-standing Arabian Nights Programming segment is a staple part of the festival’s celebration of Arab cinema. Today the second installment of innovative, boundary-pushing films originating from and focused on the region and its people was announced.

Festival-goers will be able to experience the product of some of the Middle East’s most celebrated directors, as well as viewpoints on the region and its people by filmmakers from Germany, Japan, Argentina and the United States.

DIFF’s Artistic Director, Masoud Amralla Al Ali. “Arabian Nights has been central to the festival since its inception. The films are a kaleidoscope of viewpoints, techniques and stories. We have a number of powerful documentaries, as well as unique narrative films which offer a fresh perspective on our region. The unifying thread throughout all films is a fresh, distinct take on the pressing issues facing the Arab world today.”

On the ever-urgent topic of the Arab Spring, Nasreddine Ben Maati’s documentary A Doomed Generation charts the dreams and disillusionment of young people in post-revolution Tunisia, through the testimonies of 5 key cyber dissidents who fought Ben Ali’s censorship through social networks and the internet. In the years since the revolution started, what has become of their aspirations for freedom and democracy?

Mahmoud Kaabour, whose last documentary Teta, Alf Marra won awards around the world, brings Champ of the Camp, the first ever feature-length documentary filmed in the UAE’s labor accommodation. The film follows a massive Bollywood singing and trivia competition across more than 70 camps. The film alternates between the ‘X-Factor’ style suspense of the competition and the gritty reality of the laborers’ environment.

The Beekeeper, by prolific Syrian filmmaker Mano Khalil, introduces Ibrahim, the beekeeper of the title, who lost his wife, children, country and over 500 bee colonies in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. A touching story about a man who believes in the inherent goodness of the human spirit despite his incredible suffering, The Beekeeper is a faith-restoring, touching film about vanquishing pain with wisdom and kindness.

Caroline Link, whose Nowhere in Africa won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, brings Exit Marrakech, a sumptuously told tale of an estranged father (played by prolific German star Ulrich Tukur) and son. Part family drama, part road movie, the film’s emotive story takes viewers from Marrakech to the Atlas Mountains and beyond.

Maria Florencia Alvarez’s sweet yet surreal narrative feature Habi, the Foreigner is a tale of cultural reinvention. Analía is a 20-year-old girl from a small town in Argentina who travels to the city of Buenos Aires, where she stumbles across the city’s Muslim community and assumes the identity of ‘Habiba,’ a Muslim Lebanese woman. She takes a job at a local Lebanese grocery, but then encounters the owner’s son, who dreams of reconnecting with his roots…

Hassan’s Way is the debut feature from Spanish directors Francisco Araújo and Ernesto De Nova. Hassan is unemployed after thirteen years in Spain and decides to go back home to Morocco. He invests all his savings in a second hand tractor to earn a living back home and takes to the road. A charming and eccentric story of a journey taken by a man with nothing to lose.

Prominent Yemeni filmmaker Khadija Al-Salami returns to DIFF with the brave documentary Killing Her is a Ticket to Paradise, which follows the young, outspoken writer Bouchra Al Maqtari over a period of two years, as she expresses publicly her pain and great disappointment in the broken dream of freedom and democracy, and lives through the consequences.

Palestinian director Darin Al Baw’s Our Home We Cannot Walk To follows four sisters living in the conservative Naher El Bared refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon. All of them fall ill with a rare illness after the age of 25, and the war that broke out in May 2007 between the Lebanese Army and the political party of Fateh El Islam added to their suffering. The rare, intimate film follows the family’s lives as they battle against the odds.

A genre-defying, artistic collaboration with legendary Japanese New Wave filmmaker Masao Adachi, Eric Baudelaire’s The Ugly One is part love story, part biography, and part documentary, in the story of a couple struggling to piece together the fragments of an uncertain past. Woven throughout is the voice of a Japanese narrator who recounts his 27 clandestine years fighting alongside the Palestinians as a member of the Japanese Red Army.

The programme is completed by two short films: Amina Souleiman’s short, poetic yet searing documentary Shepherdesses, which narrates the inner thoughts of generations of women in a small, isolated village in Somaliland.

Musa Syeed’s The Big House, is a beautifully shot short allegory for the Arab revolutions, through the eyes of a young boy who finds a key to the empty mansion down the street, and lets his imagination run wild inside it.

Antonia Carver, Arabian Nights Programmer added: “This year we have been spoilt for choice and subsequently our line-up this year is the most eclectic and prevalent to date. New voices, new stories, new ideas, make for an enriching and diverse Arabian Nights programme that promise to engage DIFF audiences this December.”

All films will screen as part of DIFF’s tenth edition, to take place from December 6 to 14, 2013. Schedules can be found on the DIFF website: www.dubaifilmfest.com

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