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Arab Film Festival

This Year’s Program

Breaking preconceptions and stereotypes, the Emerging Arab Cinema movement is intrinsically connected with the Arab Spring revolutions. Arab women filmmakers are at the forefront of this new wave cinema, making films in numbers that indicate a broader shift in the filmmaking landscape of Arab Cinema.

The San Francisco Opening Night presents When I Saw You, the second feature-length film of Annemarie Jacir, Palestine’s first female director. The film is an ode to the time when Palestinians felt hopeful. Egyptian direction Maggie Morgan’s Asham: A Man Called Hope captures the pules of everyday Cairo. Jessica Habie’s first feature, Mars at Sunrise, renders a highly stylized story of the conflict between two frustrated artists on either side of Israel’s militarized borders. Hind Meddeb’s Electro Chaabi looks at a new form of musical expression emanating from Egypt.

Lebanon’s predominance in cinema introduces a variety of film forms. Joanna Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s documentary, The Lebanese Rocket Society, reflects the reawakening of the hopes and dreams of the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring. Lara Saba’s epic feature, Blind Intersections, is as much about Beirut in all its complexity as it is about her characters in today’s Lebanon. Marcio Curi’s narrative, The Last Stop, tells the story of a Lebanese immigrant who arrives in Brazil in the 1950s and half a century later searches with his daughter for fellow immigrants who made the initial journey with him. A dazzling act of first-person filmmaking, Mahdi Fleifel’s documentary, A World Not Ours, immerses us in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Helweh.

Freedom of expression through art is filmed by French-Moroccan director, Laurent Ait Benalla’s cinèma-vérité style documentary O My Body!. The film traces the evolution of the work and the development of a dance troupe in Algiers.

Berkeley’s predominantly non-fiction series opens with Amira Chebli and Christophe Cotteret’s Democracy Year Zero, recalling the Tunisian revolution and its global impact through the eyes of the actual protagonists. Kathy Wazana’s They Were Promised the Sea researches her family origins in Morocco, unleashing a complex web of questions about dual identity, political opportunism, and the challenges faced by those torn between Homeland and the Promise Land. Pioneering social documentary filmmaker Connie Field’s Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine looks at an African-American gospel choir in Palestine. They become witnesses to life under occupation and a non-violent movement for social justic.

On the behalf of our board and all the dedicated volunteers, we thank you for attending the Festival and hope you will enjoy the rare and beautiful films and take this opportunity to meet the filmmakers.

Laurence Mazouni
Program Director