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DIFFDIFF Journal 2017Arab Cinema Strongly Represented at the BFI London Film Festival
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Arab Cinema Strongly Represented at the BFI London Film Festival
Sun Oct 8, 2017
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The BFI London Film Festival is set to showcase a number of strong Arab films that impressed critics and audiences in several international film festivals earlier this year and that offer wonderful portraits of life in the Arab world from different viewpoints and perspectives.

From a small village in the Morocco mountains to a religious man whose idol is Michael Jackson, Arab cinema has gone bold, creative and intriguing this year with out-of-the-box stories that employ symbolism to offer fresh takes on present day Arab world.

DIFF-supported Wajib makes its splash at the festival, carrying the distinction of being the only Arab film playing in official competition. The Annemarie Jacir-directed drama, recently announced as Palestine’s Oscar submission for the Foreign Language Oscar race, is essentially a father-son tale that is both endearing as much as it is eye-opening. Look for our in-depth coverage of the film’s premiere at the festival in a few days.

After his controversial ‘Much Loved’, Nabil Ayouch returns with Razzia, a multi-story narrative that jumps from the 1980s to present day Casablanca to offer a portrait of Morocco and tackle important issues of identity, gender equality, minority rights and the socio-economic gap. The film plays this week at the festival fresh off a TIFF debut and is Morocco’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar race.

Egyptian director Amr Salama is back with his TIFF closing film Sheikh Jackson – a funny and poignant tale of an Islamic cleric who is obsessed with Michael Jackson. Through a series of incidents, the viewer starts to discover why Jackson is a key influence for the cleric – in a smart and personal take on religion in present day Egypt. Salama’s film has also been selected to represent Egypt in the Best Foreign Language Oscar race.

Regarded by several critics as one of the most inventive and audacious Arab films of the year, Kaouther ben Hania’s Beauty and the Dogs continues its international festival run with a bow at London after impressive runs in Cannes and other film fests. Kaouther ben Hania’s film tells the true story of a woman assaulted by policemen and is denied the right to file a police report due to corruption. The film is shot in 9 single takes and presented in 9 chapters with each one moving the story forward and offering a look at the impossible attempts to achieve justice in a world that blames the raped woman far more than carrying out an honest examination at the roots of corruption.

Iraqi helmer Mohammed Al Dardji returns to the London Film Festival with one of his strongest films in years: The Journey. Timely, gripping and shocking, the film is the story of a would-be suicide bomber who decides to take a train station clerk as her hostage before carrying out her fatal mission. The film offers a deep look at terrorism and hate and is boosted by superb performances from its leads.

Egyptian director Tarik Saleh pulled off a surprise box office hit in Europe with The Nile Hilton Incident – an intriguing look at one of Egypt’s most publicized crimes of the century. Taking place in one of Egypt’s most luxurious hotels, a woman is found murdered and the suspects are nowhere to be found. An investigator, with questionable moral standards, is assigned the case and so starts his journey to uncover corruption in modern day Egypt. The film, a noir thriller, is one of the very few Egyptian films to land distribution in Europe and was a big success – by indie standards in France – where it crossed the 200,000 viewers mark.
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