News

DIFF’s Muhr Arab Shorts competition shortlists 15 compelling, controversial stories from Gulf, Levant,Egypt, Maghreb

Sat Nov 27,2010

The shortlisted films are from the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt – and from France, the United Kingdom and Canada. 

Erfan Rashid, Director of DIFF’s Arab Programme, said the films present a compelling showcase of narratives reflective of everyday life across the Middle East and North Africa as well as Arab life abroad.

“Judging by the quality of the entries, we can expect a very intense and closely-fought competition this year,” Rashid said. “We are seeing some outstanding work from both established directors and actors as well as newcomers, which is great news for our audiences.” 

Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director of the Dubai International Film Festival said: “Shorts are a great medium to communicate powerful ideas and observations, as is reflected in this year’s selection of films in the Muhr Arab Awards in-competition. All the films also reflect the evolution of the region’s filmmakers, drawing on their narrative strength from their everyday life and capitalizing on modern technology. The impact of these movies is potent, and indeed, a true reflection of life in the Middle East today.”

Filmed in the northern emirates, Khalid Al Mahmood’s Sabeel tells the story of two young boys who live with their elderly grandmother in the mountains of the UAE. Spending their days tending their vegetables and then selling produce on the road, they have to earn enough money to buy medicine for their sick grandmother. The film, which won a script prize at the 2010 Gulf Film Festival, debuted at the Locarno International Film Festival earlier this year, and went on to win the Best Short Film award at the New York Film Eurasian Festival last week. Sabeel is also in the Muhr Emirati competition.

From the United Kingdom, Habibti features an all-star cast including Hiam Abbass, Jimmy Akingbola and Yasmine Al-Massri under the direction of Nour Wazzi. The film follows a conservative woman who pays a surprise visit to her estranged daughter in London and is shocked to find her living with a boyfriend.

From Lebanon, Elie Kamal’s 2½ narrates the story of a working-style mother, who exists on the breadline, trying to make ends meet amidst the hustle and flow of everyday life in Beirut. At the end of a long, hot, summer’s day, she survives a horrific and devastating attack.

A beautifully-told little vignette, Sabine El Chamaa’s Un Mardi (A Tuesday) has a masterfully structured narrative. One sunny Tuesday morning in Beirut, an elderly lady walks out of an elegant boutique, wearing an expensive black dress she has not paid for. A policeman stops her and the story begins.

From Egypt, Omar Robert Hamilton’s Maydoum depicts the story of Sharif, who gets on the first plane home to Cairo when he hears his cousin is to sell their grandmother’s land. On arrival, he finds himself faced with old arguments and new decisions in a changing country. A poised and elegantly executed ensemble piece, this is a small film of understated, emotionally-nuanced brilliance.

Egyptian director Mohamed Ramadan’s 7awas (Senses) depicts the story of Souad, a young nurse, who falls in a one-sided love relationship with a comatose patient, Hassan, while Aayesh, by Saudi Arabian filmmaker Abdullah Al-Eyaf, is about a middle-aged man working as a morgue security guard in a big hospital. His is a mundane, lonely life, until one day his daily routine changes abruptly for ten minutes, radically altering the course of his life.

In Bahiya.. Wa Mahmoud (Bahiya.. & Mahmoud) Zaid Abu Hmadan explores love in old age, and the hidden beauty of relationships that survive a lifetime. Bahiya and Mahmoud appear to take each other for granted, until one day, when their mutual dependency is tested to the limit. The film is a co-production from Jordan, the UAE and Lebanon.

From Morocco, Adil El Fadili’s Courte Vie (Short Life) is a sweet film about a plucky young man named Zhar, whose mother dies while giving birth to him. Despite being born under a bad sign, Zhar grows into a sincere and brave hearted young man in this eloquent, witty, and subtly profound film.

Algerian filmmaker Abdenour Zahzah’s debut fiction film Garagouz, Mokhtar earns his living as a puppeteer, aided by his son. Using his old van, he moves between schools scattered in the Algerian countryside, encountering the prejudices and obstacles of others as he goes.


Fares, a 23-year old man falls into a coma after a serious car accident. As he lies motionless, his mind travels deep down into his subconscious, a place where reality and the imagination intertwine. Tunisian director Mehdi Barsaoui’s Moftaraq (Sideways) explores how far along this fantastic journey will go on.

From Syria comes Amar Chebib’s Mish Mush (Apricots), the story of a determined young Syrian poet, who decides to flee his country, fed up with labyrinthine bureaucracy, conservative family, military draft and, to top it all off, a reluctant lover. En route to Lebanon, he discovers himself in an unexpected place, an apricot orchard.

From Canada, Halima Ouardiri’s Mokhtar, based on the eponymous folktale, is the story of a young boy who lives with his family of goatherds in a remote Moroccan village. One day, the boy finds an injured owl and decides to keep it, despite the fact that the owl is considered a bad omen. Mokhtar’s new pet becomes a symbol of rebellion against his family and an icon of his fledgling independence.

The quest to find a corkscrew to open a bottle of beverage for a celebratory home-coming is at the heart of Amal Kateb’s On Ne Mourra Pas (We Will Not Die). Made in France and set in Oran, Algeria, the film follows Kabul-returned Salim. To celebrate his reunion with his beloved, Salim pulls out a bottle of beverage brought back from Afghanistan.

Lastly, in Kuwaiti filmmaker Abdullah Boushahri’s May Al Jannah (Heaven’s Water), Tawfiq, a peddler, loves a yellow fish at a shop. While there, he meets a girl in the second month of her pregnancy. Brought together by the love of the fish, he helps her to get rid of the fetus and spends time with her while she aborts in a car lost in the bustle of the city.

A three-member international jury will select a final trio of films from these 15: the first-place winner will receive US$30,000; and a special jury prize winner and second prize winner will receive US$20,000 and US$10,000 respectively. The Muhr Arab Awards also include juried competitions in features and documentaries, in addition to shorts.

The seventh edition of Dubai International Film Festival 2010 will be held from December 12 to 19. DIFF 2010 is held in association with Dubai Studio City. Dubai Duty Free, Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline and Madinat Jumeirah are the principal sponsors of DIFF. The Festival is supported by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority.  Accreditation for DIFF 2010 is now open at www.dubaifilmfest.com.

DIFF 2010 box office locations are: CineStar Mall of the Emirates, the Madinat Souk and at the CNN Building in Dubai Media City. Tickets can also be purchased through DIFF’s Dial-a-Ticket service at (04) 391 3378 and from the website, www.dubaifilmfest.com.

For more and updated information about DIFF, please visit www.dubaifilmfest.com

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