Thu Nov 28,2013

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) today revealed its roster of 15 short films vying for the coveted Muhr Arab Short Film Award, which offers thousands of dollars in cash prizes that can set a short film director well on their way toward finishing their next film.

The Muhr Awards were established in 2006, and since then have sought out the best and brightest filmmakers in the region, said DIFF Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali: “These films are small gems that pack a lot of story into a short duration. Audiences can see five or six excellent, gripping films in the time it would take to see a feature, making for a memorable festival experience.” 

He continued, “While short films are an art form in and of themselves, they are also often a calling card for emerging directors building a portfolio of work and challenging themselves before taking on a feature project. Rewarding short filmmakers is therefore an important part of nurturing the film industry in the region, which has been one of our most cherished goals since the beginning.”

Erfan Rashid, Director Arab Programme commented: “Short films are where some of the most renowned directors have cut their teeth. Although short in length, these films make a strong impact, and are celebrated by film festivals worldwide. Short films allow filmmakers to quickly captivate audiences and offer room to experiment, often breaking cinematic convention.”

The short films in the lineup cover a range of topics, including the experience of children. Toufic Khreich’s Troubled Waters follows Skandar, a man who returns to Lebanon after twenty years in Canada to reconcile with his violent, estranged father. Haunting memories toss him back and forth between past and present.

Hamad Al-Tourah’s Playtime tells the story of Matthew, a 10-year-old British expat living with his mother in Kuwait, who runs away with a Kuwaiti neighbour when his mother leaves him alone for a night out with another man.

Two Iraqi shorts featuring children’s lives are also part of the Iraqi Legacy: Children of the Future programme. Children of War by Ahmed Yassin, depicts a child’s take on war through a young boy in an orphanage, who uses drawings to express his anguish and despair. Children of God, by Meedo Ali, is a lighthearted take on young love, the story of a young boy who bets his prized collection of football posters on the girls’ team winning a battle-of-the-sexes football match, all to try to win the heart of the girls’ goalkeeper.

Love—or lack thereof—is the theme of Entropya, by Yassine Morroccu, a one-shot film that focuses on a complicated love story between a Muslim and a Jew in Morocco, centering on the 20th wedding anniversary of an inter-faith couple.  Likewise, in Hisham Al Zouki’s Train of Silence, a young, dark-haired man and a young, light-skinned European woman crash into each other’s lives in a chance meeting that changes their destinies forever.

Budding filmmakers and identical twin brothers Tarzan and Arab, aka Mohammed and Ahmed Abu Nasser, present Condom Lead, which twists the name of the 2009 offensive against the Gaza Strip to explore the cutting off of the sexual instinct in a time of siege and violence, when the marriage bed becomes a no man’s land and explosions colonize body and soul.

Bavi Yassin’s The Lost Voice is about Salma, a famous Iraqi singer who is forced to leave her native country, and loses the one thing that protected her through years of violence: her voice. Only through a relationship with Hassan, a young refugee, is she able to see other things worth living for.

The criminal side of life is the setting of Blued, by Rama Mari, which follows a mother and son in the West Bank as they try to hide a deadly crime. In Myriam Chetouane’s The Culture of Appearances, Dalila, a young woman of Moroccan origin living in a Parisian suburb, runs into trouble as she tries to find money to repatriate the body of her deceased father. Ulaano Salim’s My Brother is a drama centered around two friends who find themselves submerged in the criminal world of Copenhagen.

On a similar note, Haider Rashid, who has exhibited his feature films at DIFF in previous editions, returns to the short form with The Deep, wherein a young Iraqi man’s dream to play football is twisted by a life in a crime-ridden country and his struggle for survival after he runs away from what seems to be his only path in life.

Memory and time collapse in Youssef Alimam’s Speed of Light, which follows a psychiatrist plunged into depression after losing his wife and daughter in a tragic incident. When he meets a patient who claims to be a time traveller, he is left with a stark choice: to believe in his patient’s power and try to save his family, or risk being declared insane.

Memory is key in Morphine Melody, by Hicham Amal, wherein a famous composer who has lost his memory in an accident gradually regains his memory—except he cannot remember how to create music.

And for something completely different, Ali Cherri’s The Disquiet investigates the geological situation in Lebanon.  While the Lebanese focus on surface level events that rock the nation, an actual shattering of the earth is mounting, making for immanent disaster.

The tenth annual DIFF will take place from December 6 to 14, 2013. The Muhr Awards finalists will be announced at the festival’s closing ceremony.

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