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Arab youth aspirations come to the fore at DIFF
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 04 - 12 - 2012

A scene from Kurdish film “Bekas" by Karzan Kader. — Courtesy photos
DUBAI/JEDDAH — Saudi film pioneer Haifaa Al Mansour and debut feature filmmaker Karzan Kader will present the gala screenings of their innovative films at the 9th edition of Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), which opens Dec. 9 and runs until Dec. 16.
The 2012 lineup will present movies from around the world and an impressive talent lineup of globally acclaimed actors and directors, and the largest selection of quality, contemporary Arab cinema anywhere in the world.
DIFF's Muhr Arab Feature lineup includes 16 films made up of nine World Premieres, two International Premieres, four Middle East Premieres and one GCC Premiere.
The festival's increasingly large showcase of homegrown films will see 17 films screened during DIFF in the three Muhr categories: Shorts, Features and Documentaries, which have been supported through initiatives such as Enjaaz, the festival's post-production program.
DIFF's Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said: “We are honored to have the opportunity to showcase these incredible films, providing a platform for Arab filmmakers to achieve their ambitions and giving them the opportunity to stand tall alongside their international counterparts.
“Furthermore, the fact that 17 of the films in the Muhr Arab Features, Shorts and Documentaries have received funding from Enjaaz shows that a boost to our regional filmmakers produces incredible returns, not least to audience members."
Following success in Cannes, the film circuit is abuzz with praise for Kader's “Bekas" (making its International Premiere on Dec. 10), which is set against the turbulent Iraqi landscape under Saddam Hussein's regime.
It is an endearing tale of two homeless Iraqi-Kurdish children living on the edge of survival who catch a glimpse of the film “Superman" at the local cinema — and resolve to travel to America on a donkey to live with him!
On Dec. 12, Al Mansour will walk the DIFF red carpet at the Middle East Premiere Gala screening of her transfixing and extraordinarily touching “Wadjda," the first film to have been entirely shot in Saudi Arabia.
Partially inspired by Al Mansour's own youth, this heartfelt coming-of-age story chronicles a young girl pushing the boundaries of modern society in the Kingdom as she strives to possess her own bicycle.
The ground-breaking film has already been awarded the Art Cinema Award at the Venice Film Festival 2012 and sparked international discussion and interest in the burgeoning talent of the Arab World.
Further selections in the category include Said Ould Khelifa's thrilling yet tragic biopic “Zabana," which will make its Middle East Premiere. It marks the 50th anniversary of Algeria's fight for independence, honoring the eponymous freedom fighter whose execution by guillotine launched Algeria on its road to freedom.
Homeida Behi presents another revolutionary tale, “Nesma" (World Premiere), in which someone impersonates Yousef as he and his wife try to rent out Nesma, a luxury villa — and stalks him at every turn during a hot Tunisian summer after months of uprisings.
Several of the Muhr Arab feature entries are crime dramas with an Arab twist: from Moroccan director Nour-Eddine Lakhmari comes the International Premiere of “Zero," the story of downtrodden cop Amine who is dominated by his invalid father, living hopeless and depressed until he decides to investigate the disappearance of a young girl in Casablanca's seedy underbelly.
Djamila Sahraoui's “Yema" (Middle East Premiere) recently received acclaim during the Orizzonti sidebar in Venice and was awarded best actress in Namur (Belgium). It is set deep in the Algerian mountains, where Ouardia's son Tarek has been killed possibly by his own brother, a leader of an extremist group.
Music is a universal language that bridges cultural divides in French-Iraqi singer-songwriter Leila Albayaty's feature film “Berlin Telegram," an unconventional tale of heartache about a woman (played by Bayati herself) who is jilted by her longtime lover and embarks on a musical odyssey to Brussels, Berlin, Lisbon and Cairo.
“My Brother" (World Premiere), a feature by Kamal El Mahouti, also approaches failed romance in its portrayal of an artist caught between French, Moroccan and Muslim identities, set to the rhythms of Gnawa folk music.
In another World Premiere of the same genre, “Defining Love: A Failed Attempt" by Hakim Bellabes follows two actors who have traveled to the remote Atlas Mountains in Morocco to play two legendary star-crossed lovers.
The Muhr feature lineup this year is incredible; many of the filmmakers are experiencing international recognition and winning awards at some of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, further demonstrating the evolution of the Arab film industry," said Erfan Rashid, Director of the Arab Program.
“New contenders are challenging the norms, and embarking on a new course of filmmaking with compelling films that explore the diversity of the Arab world."
The DIFF box office is open online at For additional information, contact [email protected] or call the festival's dedicated customer care number, 363 FILM (3456). — SG

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