Best of Contemporary Arab Films Confirmed for Second Dubai Film Festival

Thu Nov 24,2005

Dubai, November 24, 2005 – Searing political dramas and other compelling film fare from the Arab world will be on offer every day between December 11 and 17, as part of the Dubai International Film Festival’s Arabian Nights program. The brand-new films, gathered from every corner of the Arab world and covering a variety of hot-button issues and diverse eras, are part of the Festival’s cornerstone Arabian Nights program dedicated to showcasing the best of contemporary Arab cinema. Included in the line-up of 14 films are Massaker, a psycho-political study of the perpetrators of the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp massacres in 1982; October 17, 1961, a film retracing a seminal episode during the Algerian War of independence; La Ultima Luna (The Last Moon), a Chilean production about a village in Palestine in the years during and after the first world war; and Kiss Me Not, a modern-day look at a woman’s burden in Egyptian society. Masoud Amralla Al Ali, chief Festival programmer and head of the Arabian Nights section, said while the chosen films reflect issues of concern around the Arab and Muslim world, they are nonetheless equally significant for an international audience. “While the context may be from the Arab world, the subject matter in these films is important for humanity as a whole,” Al Ali said. “Some of the Arabian Nights films may be shocking and others entertaining, but each of them serves to inform and educate.” Airing compelling and sometimes controversial films is a necessary step in building cultural bridges, one of the Festival’s core aims, Al Ali said. “You cannot build bridges without examining your past,” he said. “You cannot start dialogue if you disagree. The best thing to do is to revisit the past, see what mistakes were made, clear the air and try to reconcile old grievances. Only if we understand what happened and why we can forgive, and only if we forgive can we create the clean slate that we need to start a new dialogue.” Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, Executive Director of Media, Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone, said the caliber and diversity of these top-rated Arab films were one of the Festival’s greatest strengths. “The Arabian Nights program is something we can be proud of not only as Arabs, but also something we in Dubai can be proud to be taking to the world,” she said. Festival Director and CEO Neil Stephenson said the international-quality films worked on two levels: one as a barometer of the cinematic skill in the region and the other as a window into the thoughts and feelings of the Arab people. “The Arabian Nights program goes to the heart of what we are trying to achieve as a Festival – representing the best of Arab cinema to the world, and also trying to build bridges between the cultures of the world,” Stephenson said. “If even half of those who watch these films walk away with a slightly more profound understanding of the Arab world, it will be a great achievement.” “We are very lucky to have someone as skilled as Masoud onboard as a programmer,” Stephenson continued. “He has an astonishing talent and rare ability to find edgy, incisive and thought-provoking films that promote discussion, debate and dialogue.” Although the majority of the films in this program are serious, there is a scattering of light-hearted fare, Al Ali added. The Algerian Bab El Web, for example, follows the madcap antics of a penniless young man hooked to Internet chat rooms and what happens when a French woman accepts his online invitation to visit Algiers. “Since 9/11, everyone looks at the Arab world in a different way, a one-dimensional way,” Al Ali said. “The Middle East is full of political problems, and many of these films are about those realities. But the lighter films show that there is more than one side to the Arab world.” The complete Arabian Nights category will be unveiled on Sunday, November 27, alongside the announcement of Festival films and attendees and the opening of the Festival box office.

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