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Compelling narratives from the Arab world make the final cut for Muhr Arab Documentary Awards at DIF

Thu Nov 26,2009

Compelling tales from Palestine, narratives that highlight community concerns and personal stories set against societal upheavals make it to the short-list for the Muhr Arab Documentary Awards at DIFF 2009.

Erfan Rashid, Director of Arab Programme at DIFF said that the 14 finalists, chosen from several submissions from the Middle East and beyond, are evocative of the trials, tribulations and bittersweet facets of every day life in the Arab world.

“The plight of the Palestinian people continues to serve as an inspiration for film-makers and the short-list has six stories with powerful Palestinian story-lines. As artforms that shed light on true social and community issues, documentaries call for bold creativity and the short-list is representative of this.”

Among the finalists is the world premiere of Fix Me by film-maker Raed Andoni, which explores the collective and individual psyches of modern-day Palestinians. Suffering headaches, Andoni consults a psychologist, leading to a course of 20 therapy sessions. Inspired by his own psychological excavations, Andoni develops the concept to apply to modern-day Palestine, a project that inspires this witty, personal and compelling film.

Fear and resistance against oppression is the main theme of Zahara, a highly anticipated new film by celebrated actor-director Mohammed Bakri. Zahara has all the passion of Bakri’s award-winning 2002 documentary, Jenin Jenin, plus a beautifully lyrical narrative that covers the breadth of recent Palestinian history.

The life and times of the late Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, is the focus of As The Poet Said, a world premiere from director Nasri Hajjaj. He tours the cities and towns the poet lived in, meeting contemporaries, writers and lovers of his work and overlaying the mosaic of memories and reflections with readings of Darwish’s works throughout.

Director Samir Abdallah pulls no punches in Gaza On The Air, a world premiere, which documents in graphic detail the January 2009 bombardment of Gaza, when a group of Palestinian journalists and cameramen risked their lives to covertly film scenes of the destruction, intended for news broadcast around the world. Gaza On The Air is a bold, uncompromising tribute to the men and women of the media.

For world premiere Little Wings, film-maker Rashid Masharawi visited Baghdad to meet the young children forced to work around the city, drawing parallels between them and youngsters in Gaza. The film presents a world in which everyone, no matter how young, has to struggle to survive. Masharawi’s deep sense of identification with the children’s traumas makes for a deeply affecting and authoritative document of the local situation.

More Iraq subject matter is in evident in world premiere Collapse by Hadi Mahood, which looks at how the country’s cultural institutions were destroyed after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. It is also a record of the proceedings that trapped the educated at home and their suffering in exile. Marking its World Premiere at DIFF is Back to One’s Roots by director Bilal Yousef, which narrates the story of a young Palestinian whose two brothers were killed during their services in the Israeli army.

The Sudanese entry by Taghreed Elsanhouri, Mother Unknown, is an absorbing portrait of the Mygoma orphanage and young, unmarried mothers of Khartoum, who are forced to give up their babies for adoption. The film won the Unicef Child Rights Award when it premiered at the Zanzibar International Film Festival in July.

A fascinating insight into the lives of three ‘Zabbaleen’ teenagers, who live and work amidst the giant waste dumps near Cairo is the subject of the US-produced Garbage Dreams by Mai Iskander.  The dumps are home to 60,000 Zabbaleen, (Arabic for ‘garbage people’), pioneers of eco-friendly recycling practices, who reuse up to 80 percent of the trash they collect.

The fascinating story of Lebanon’s first prisoner theatre group is unveiled in world premiere 12 Angry Lebanese, which uncovers hidden musical and dramatic talent in a grim jail. A theatre director specialising in working with disadvantaged and traumatised people, Zeina Daccache struggled to set up Lebanon’s first prison-based drama project in the country’s notorious Roumieh Prison.

A Lebanese man returns to his homeland in search of answers, following the slaughter of his family nearly thirty years ago in world premiere Chou Sar? By De Gaulle Eid Discovering his former neighbours, who participated in his family’s slaying are still living in the area, the narrator is faced with a hideous reality.

Celebrated independent film-maker and DIFF regular Hakim Belabbes returns with world premiere In Pieces, a deeply personal portrait of his Moroccan extended family using footage collected over the past ten years at family gatherings.

The victims of France’s nuclear testing in the Sahara during the 1960s finally get heard in the powerful, compelling documentary The Blast of Shame by Djamel Ouhab.

The Syrian entry, Jibal Alsawan (Flint Mountains) is another world premiere at DIFF, and is directed by Nidal Hassan. The documentary depicts the inspiring story of sculptor and architect Hikmat Adra who created magical artworks from local stones and rocks.

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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