Documentaries on war, mental illness, storytelling, and music in Arab world screening at Dubai International Film Festival 2010

Tue Nov 30,2010

Among the 13 films are eight world premieres, two international premieres, two Middle East premieres, and one GCC premiere; and films from the UAE, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Netherlands, Denmark, and France.

Emirati filmmaker Nujoom Alghanem brings us the story of Hamama; a 90-year old female healer and living legend in the Emirates whose skills are incredibly valuable to hundreds who continue to visit her each day. Yet, Hamama struggles with the responsibility of providing the care that is so greatly needed, while she tries to confront her own personal hardships. The world premiere of Hamama will be screened at Cinestar, Mall of the Emirates, on Dec. 15 followed by a second screening on Dec. 17.  The film is also participating in the Muhr Emirati competition.

In Les Malaki – Les Habits Des Anges (Malaki – Scent of an Angel), award-winning Lebanese filmmaker Khalil Zaaraour, best known for his short film The Window, provides a compelling narrative following the relatives of people reported missing as a result of Lebanon’s long and bloody civil war. The film makes its world premiere on Dec. 16, followed by a second screening on Dec. 19 at MoE.

With Al Tareeq Ila Bait Lahem (The Road to Bethlehem), Palestinian filmmaker and founder/CEO of Open Bethlehem, Leila Sansour returns to her hometown of Bethlehem to make a film about the wall. The intense but whimsical documentary will make its world premiere in Dubai on Dec. 16, followed by a second screening on Dec. 18. In the film, Sansour documents her battle with local bureaucracy and the effect of the Israeli-imposed barrier upon the local population. The moving and insightful documentary emerges as a lovingly-crafted paean to Sansour’s hometown and all that it represents.

Algerian filmmaker Rahma Benhamou El Madani’s Tagnawittude delves into the Gwana music ritual of the Maghreb. The documentary analyses the life of Amazigh Kateb and his band Gwana Diffusion, the talent behind a unique style of music since 1992. The film reveals interviews with musicians and participants of the Gwana music ritual, unlocking a fascinating glimpse of its intricacies. Marking its international premiere at DIFF, Tagnawittude will be screened at Mall of the Emirates on Dec. 15 and 18.

The world premiere of Lebanese director Zeina Sfeir’s Beirut Al Mouss (All About My Father) gives audiences a unique history of Lebanon, as heard directly from those who shaped it. Having coiffed the heads of politicians, princes, and presidents, Elius Sfeir’s testimonies provide audiences with colorful anecdotes and endlessly surprising recollections. The documentary will be screened at Cinestar, Mall of the Emirates, on Dec. 14 and 16.

Supported by DIFF’s Dubai Film Connection, Egyptian filmmaker Iman Kamel’s Beit Sha’ar (Nomad’s Home) is a portrait of two Arab women born in different social and cultural circumstances within contemporary Egypt. The two women have much more in common than is immediately apparent. The world premiere of the film will be on Dec. 16, followed by another screening on Dec. 18, at MoE.

The tradition of storytelling in Syria and fables passed from grandparents to grandchildren, blended in colourful imagery, has been lost with time. Soudade Kaadan’s Saqf Dmiashq Wa Hykayat Al Jannah (Damascus Roof and Tales of Paradise) defines the danger that these stories will vanish amidst the rubble and disruption of a city undergoing modernisation. The world premiere film will be screened on Dec. 16 and 18.

Syrian filmmaker, Soudade Kaadan’s film Two Cities and A Prison will mark its world premiere at Cinestar, Mall of the Emirates, on Dec. 16 and 18. Samir Abdullah and Kheridine Mabrouk’s Kasidat Gaza, Palestine (Gaza-Strophe, Palestine) documents the fall-out of the 2008/9 ‘Operation Cast Lead’ following a bombardment upon the civilians of Gaza. The world premiere of the harrowing documentary is on Dec. 16, followed by a second screening on Dec. 18, at Cinestar, Mall of the Emirates.

Supported by the Dubai Film Connection and winner of the top DIFF prize, Mahmoud Al Massad’s Hathihi Swrati Wa Ana Mayet (This is My Picture When I Was Dead) makes its international premiere at DIFF this year. Screening at the MoE on Dec. 14 and 17, the film follows the story of Bashir, a four-year old killed during the assassination of his father, a top PLO lieutenant. However, death was not the end of Bashir’s journey. As he digs through his past to find out what kind of life he would have lived 29 years later, this experimental, highly original and occasionally surreal film redefines what a documentary can be.

Palestinian filmmaker Abdallah Al Ghoul’s Tathkara Min Azrael (Ticket from Azrael) charts the desperate efforts of a Palestinian man digging an escape tunnel from Rafah, in the Gaza Strop, through to Egypt. This powerful and sobering account of realities of life in occupied Palestine marks its world premiere on Dec. 15 and will be screened again on Dec. 17 at Mall of the Emirates.

The Middle East premiere of Kaouther Ben Hania’s Les Imams Vont A L’ecole (Imams Go to School) follows the secular training of a group of apprentices at Paris’ Great Mosque, so that they may comply with new social regulations. The new film from the accomplished director will be screened at Mall of the Emirates on Dec. 13 and 16.

Marianne Khoury and Mustapha Hasnaoui’s Zelal, a quiet masterpiece of hard-hitting reportage, has drawn global praise for its sobering insight into the lives of those afflicted by mental illness in Egypt today. Filmed in two large asylums, the film reveals the horrific conditions in which patients are expected to live – squalor and neglect is endemic, and therapy and treatment seems non-existent. The Middle East premiere of Zelal will be held at Mall of the Emirates on Dec. 14, followed by a second screening on Dec. 16.

Following a forced evacuation from Palestine in 1948, Munir Shargawi traveled the world before settling down in Denmark. Omar Shargawi’s Fra Haifa Til Noerrebro (My Father from Haifa) is touching documentary of a personal history and highlights a new relationship emerging between a father and a son, both of whom in their own ways are grappling with their identities as a result of their past. The film will mark its GCC premiere on Dec. 15 and will be screened again on Dec. 17.

Erfan Rashid, DIFF’s Director of Arab Programming, said: “The documentaries offer a perfect kaleidoscope into the day-to-day life in the Arab world, as well as tales that highlight individual plights, struggles and triumphs. All the selected works are of outstanding quality and will offer intense competition.”

Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director, Dubai International Film Festival, said: “The Muhr Arab Documentary segment captures the modern-day social, cultural, and political dynamics of the region. These movies, by filmmakers in the region as well as those based abroad, highlight the power of documentaries in capturing the socio-cultural dynamics.”

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

DIFF 2010 box office locations are: Cinestar Mall of the Emirates, the Madinat Souk and 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,

For more and updated information about DIFF, please visit

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