Seven further film titles have been added to the Dubai International Film Festival’s (DIFF) Arabian Nights program, completing the line-up of the renowned section of the Festival. In a celebration of life in the Middle East, the category has long been one the Festival’s most prominent strands as it captures the fundamentals of DIFF, providing an international platform to share stories which originate from and focus on the region.
The first film is from Dutch filmmaker Alex Pitstra, with an investigation into his own Tunisian roots in ‘Bezness As Usual’. Pitstra begins to build relationships with his newly discovered family in Tunisia after his father makes contact for the first time since childhood. Facing difficulties that come with cultural misunderstandings and unsuccessful bonds with his new family members, Pitstra creates a fascinating documentation of a life pulled between two diverse cultures.
Egyptian director Kamla Abou Zekry’s latest film ‘A Day For Women’ starring Elham Shaheen, Nelly Karim and Mahmoud Hemida is a reflection on community, co-existence and freedom. The opening of a new swimming pool is the talk of the town, especially as every Sunday is a designated women’s day. Filled with excitement, the women are able to freely unite and enjoy the space; however, the men of the town find a way to protest against this liberating day.
Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania returns to DIFF with ‘Zaineb Hates the Snow’ following the screening of her debut feature ‘Challat of Tunis’ at the Festival in 2013. Featuring Zaineb Khelifi, Wided Khelifi, Wijdene Hamdi, Maher Hamdi and Haythem Khelifi, the film is a beautiful and poignant coming-of-age documentary told through the eyes of 9-year-old Zaineb and told over a time period of 6 years Zaineb. Following the death of her father, Zaineb’s mother is moving the family from Tunisia to Canada to rebuild a life with her new partner. Unsettled with changing family life, the young, charismatic Zaineb has come to a predetermined decision to hate the snow she will finally get to experience once arriving in the new country.
Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah connects to his heritage through the charming comedy ‘Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces’ featuring Laila Eloui, Menna Shalabi and Bassem Samra. The audience is taken on a faraway journey to the small Egyptian village of Belqas where a family of caterers are dealing with sibling rivalry, romantic entanglements and culinary ambitions whilst hectically preparing for a wedding feast.
DIFF welcomes back widely recognized Lebanese film director Philippe Aractingi whose film ‘Under The Bombs’ screened at the Festival in 2007, winning the Gold Muhr Award, and is also known for his documentary ‘Heritages’ (2014). This year, the widely recognised director returns with newest creation and world premiere ‘Listen’ starring Hadi Abou Ayash, Ruba Zaarour and Yara Bou Nassar. The story follows sound engineer Joud whose world is torn apart when the love of his life, Rana, falls into a deep coma. Due to the couples’ opposing backgrounds, Joud is forbidden to see his love, and attempts to bring her back using the beauty of sound.
Algerian director Rachida Brakni brings a tense tale to DIFF’s audiences with ‘Visiting Ours’ starring Zita Hanrot, Samira Brahmia, Fabienne Babe and Sacha Bourdo. A prison on the outskirts of Paris is visited by women every month who are going to see loved ones. After being made to wait in the scorching August sun prior to entering, the diverse group of women pass through numerous security checkpoints resulting in mounting tensions, until riots erupt behind the bars.
The final film rounding off the Arabian Nights category is from Dutch director Mijke De Jong, who brings ‘Layla M.’ to DIFF, starring Nora El Koussour and Ilias Addab. The story follows eighteen-year-old Layla, who was born and raised in Amsterdam, is smart, stubborn and of Moroccan origin. As she struggles with the increasing suspicion towards girls with headscarves and boys with beards, her faith intensifies. She joins a group of extremists who fight for their practice of Islam and marries a fellow extremist, Abdel, and together they travel and raise money for their causes. When they are involved in a shootout, they are forced to flee to the Middle East, where Layla encounters a world that initially nurtures her ideas, but finally confronts her with an impossible choice.
DIFF’s Artistic Director, Masoud Amralla Al Ali commented on the program: “This year’s Arabian Nights line-up showcases another stellar selection of insightful films created by regional filmmakers who have been inspired by life in the ever-evolving Middle East. This unique category provides a fundamental opportunity to share perspectives, experiences and culturally-enriching stories with audiences from all across the globe, supporting the growth of both regional cinema and Arab talent.”
Delphine Garde-Mroueh, Arabian Nights programmer added: “DIFF’s Arabian Nights category is a key part of the Festival’s celebration of Arab cinema. It brings me great delight to host a program which showcases such a unique selection of innovative films which focus on the region. Offering fresh perspectives, this year’s group of talented filmmakers confront the pressing issues which today’s Arab world is facing, helping to unite cultures through compelling storytelling.”
The 13th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival will take place from the 7th December – 14th December, 2016.