Through the Eyes of a Child: Muhr Arab Films Offer Big Ideas through Small Characters

Thu Dec 13,2012

Dubai, November 13, 2012 – A selection of films in the Muhr Arab competition at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) this year present the world through the eyes of a child—untrained and juvenile, but honest and touchingly naïve.

Masoud Amralla Ali Ali, DIFF’s Artistic Director, said: “The use of a child as the main character in a film is a choice that can free a director to present a view of the world which adults used to know, but have long forgotten. The lack of artifice and undisguised emotion brings another dimension to a story. Moreover, a number of the films led by child actors use children that are not trained as actors, which makes for a very real and raw sensibility.” 

Both charmingly simple Arab Gala’s; Wajda by Haifaa al Mansour and Bekas by Karzan Kader, have children at the core while Noor, a heart-warming entry by US-based Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Ibrahim, tells the story of a boy who sets out on the near-impossible task of hanging Ramadan lights on his building. The film uses non-native actors and was shot on-location in Cairo.

Aspiration and the single-minded pursuit of childhood dreams against impossible odds is the subject of Waltz with Asmahan, by Samia Charkioui. The film references the legendary Syrian diva who lives on in the imagination of a young Moroccan girl who would give anything for a ticket to Egypt to become a famous singer like her idol. My Shoes, by Anis Lassoued, is the tale of a 9-year-old boy with a passion for running.

Of course, childhood is not all innocence, and the world imposes pressure even on the very young. In On the Edge, by Omar Mouldouira, seven-year old Karim struggles with the tension between his childhood fears and his urgent desire to become a man. The film is a mysterious coming-of-age tale set in Boujaâd, a Moroccan town where ancient myths and legends are rife. Curse, by Fyzel Boulifa, presents an alternate view of children—as aggressors and tormentors. The award-winning short follows Fatine, a woman who set upon by children after a secret tryst with her older lover in what she thought was a remote and private location.
A number of entrants tell their stories in flashback, with their younger selves as witness to their memories. Asfouri navigates the treacherous territory between present day Beirut and the city in the pre-Civil War period through the story of an apartment building that houses shifting generations of characters.
Erfan Rashid, Director of Arab Programming, said: “The use of child characters is part of the inherent diversity and range of the Muhr Arab programme. It is a testament to these filmmakers that they privilege the views of children, making their stories as vibrant and relevant as the adult stories with which they share the screen at this year’s DIFF.”
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