The second line-up of films in the Dubai International Film Festival’s (DIFF) Arabian Nights programme provides a multi-dimensional view of the region and the hopes and struggles of its people. The films in this category acquaint audiences with the Middle East’s untold stories through new and familiar cinematic voices from the Arab world and beyond.
DIFF’s artistic director, Masoud Amralla Al Ali, said: “The Arabian Nights programme offers narratives from some of the Arab world’s most talented directors in addition to perspectives on the Middle East from international filmmakers. These hard-hitting tales of friendship and family, survival, social struggles, and political drama all tell touching human stories that have enthralled audiences around the world this year.”
The world premiere of ‘Cairo Time’ by Amir Ramses tells three stories which take place over the course of a single day in Cairo. Lila, a retired actress, is looking for Sameh, her last co-star. Salma, is dating Wael and is in Wael’s friend’s apartment after their marriage breaks down. Hazem is a young drug dealer on the run from Alexandria to Cairo and picks up an old man with Alzheimer’s disease.
The six characters find themselves at decisive points of their lives, which although disparate, are brought together by destiny through pitch-perfect performances by Egyptian cinema’s legends including Nour El-Sherif, Mervat Amin, Samir Sabri as well as talent from the new generation; Dorra, Ayten Amer, and Sherif Ramzy.
Hajooj kuka’s ‘Beats of the Antonov’ tells the story of the people of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan, showing how they deal with civil war. Traditionally music has always been part of daily life in these areas, but now it has a new role in a society that is challenged by war. ‘Beats of the Antonov’ won the People's Choice Documentary Award at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year.
The international outcry and protests on 15 February 2003 against the war on Iraq was a pivotal moment in recent history and its consequences have gone unreported. Through the prism of that one historic day, Amir Amirani’s ‘We Are Many’ chronicles the struggle to shift power from the old establishment to the new superpower: global public opinion.
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‘Peace on the Tigris – Iraq War and 10 Years of Life in Baghdad’ in its world premiere at DIFF starts two weeks prior to the commencement of the Iraq war in March 2003, when Japanese video journalist Takeharu Watai started recording the war. Over 10 years, he documented the scars of the war through the lives and voices of Baghdad’s citizens. In March 2013, with only photos in hand, he revisited Baghdad in search of the Iraqi citizens he had encountered.
‘We Are Many’ and ‘Peace on the Tigris’ are a comprehensive panorama of Iraqi history since 2003. Viewers can learn about the significant events that took place in the country by watching ‘We Are Many’ first, followed by ‘Peace on the Tigris – Iraq War and 10 Years of Life in Baghdad’.
Ghassan Salhab’s ‘The Valley’ tells the story of a middle-aged man who loses his memory in a car accident on a lonely mountain road. Covered in blood, he walks along the deserted road. Further along, he encounters people, whose car has broken down due to engine trouble and he helps them restart their car. The group is reluctant to leave him stranded, so they take him home to their large estate in the Bekaa Valley, a place where production is not only agricultural – but a place he may never leave again.
Delphine Garde-Mroueh, Arabian Nights programmer added: “The Middle East is rich in tales of hardship and triumph, doubt and faith, anguish and resilience. The films in this year’s Arabian Nights selection are cinematic works of art that beautifully capture these stories, shining a light on the region’s fabric of society”.
All films will screen as part of DIFF’s 11th edition, to take place from December 10 to 17, 2014.