Sun Nov 30,2008

Seven Countries Vie For Muhr Title

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) will once again host its Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema, which aim, through the many feature films, documentaries and shorts, to motivate and nurture the emerging film market of the Middle East. In this year’s Muhr Awards for short films, 12 outstanding works vie for the Best Short Film titles, originating from seven different countries.

DIFF’s Arabic Programme Consultant

of the Competition, Erfan Rashid expanded on the Muhr Awards offerings: “This year’s Muhr Awards received 33 per cent more entries than 2007, and there has been a palpable increase in the quality and caliber of the films we’ve received since we launched the awards in 2006.  The best thing about the shorts programme is that viewers are treated to a handful of wonderful stories instead of one longer feature. We encourage audiences to give short programmes a try, and sample some of the best up and coming film talent the Middle East has to offer.”

Two Emirati selections vie for the title alongside competition from around the Arab world: Bint Mariam is a poetic tale of a young girl faced with life after the death of her husband, by Saeed Salmeen Al-Murry. Waleed al Shehhi, a director from the emirate of Ras al Khamiah, brings Baab (Door),  in which a young man searches for a door which was washed away by a flood, a metaphor for his childhood memories.

From the Levant,  Jordan’s Pummelo depicts how an ordinary family break becomes an emotional journey of discovery for three women; acclaimed Lebanese actor Carlos Chahine moves behind the camera with his debut short feature La Route Du Nord (North Road), which tells the tale of a man returns to Lebanon to ensure his father finally gets a proper burial, years after his death in the civil war.

The influence of the Maghreb is strong in the Muhr Arabic shorts: Choisir D’Aimer (Choosing Love) is set in Paris,  where a university student (played by upcoming star Laila Bhekti) leads a double life - in love with her French boyfriend and staying true to her Algerian family. Souvenirs D’Alger (From Algiers with Love) pairs award-winning filmmaker Jean-Luc Ayach and playwright Mohamed Zemaich in their story of a man living in Algiers who finds a threatening letter in his mailbox. In the Tunisian short Wara al Blayek (Borderline),  countryside sweethearts Mokhtar and Saadia are separated, to meet months later in the alien environs of a big city.

Egypt, with its cosmopolitan cinema scene, also makes a strong showing: Zeyarat Yom Shetwy (Winter’s Day Visit) depicts a young Egyptian man’s typical day dealing with his family demands, his two girlfriends, and government officials who impound his car; in Il Shaghala (The Maid), a house maid must deal with her employer’s suspicions; in Sa’et Asary (At Day’s End),  based on a short story by Ibrahim Aslan, a father contemplates the physical changes of his adult son in a meditation on ageing.

Two entries emerge from Palestine:  in the hilarious Arafat and I, Marwan is a Palestinian Londoner obsessed with two loves: his fiancée Lisa and former PA Chairman Arafat. How can we reconcile the two? In A Space Exodus, the Palestinian-born multi-media artist Larissa Sansour vividly re-imagines scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, on her mission to become the first Palestinian on the moon.

The short films competing for the Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema will screen at DIFF in three separate programmes. For further information or to purchase tickets,  please access the DIFF website on

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