A further ten films have been added to the Dubai International Film Festival’s (DIFF) celebrated Muhr Feature program which, now complete, boasts a stellar selection of 18 contenders including multiple world premieres. The internationally recognized program celebrates regional excellence as talented directors reflect their personal experiences of the Arab world through the compelling medium of film. Diverse audiences will be captivated by the exceptional array during the Festival, which takes place 7–14 December 2016 at Madinat Jumeirah.
Since 2006, DIFF has brought together the best in local and regional short and feature-length films for the Muhr competition. Designed to highlight and nurture cinematic talent from around the Arab world, the competitive lineup will have their entries screened for DIFF audiences and judged by a prestigious jury panel with the chance for the best entries to win cash prizes to help further their filmmaking talent. The Muhr Feature program has the following categories: Best Muhr Fiction Feature, Best Muhr non-Fiction Feature, Special Jury Prize Muhr Feature (Fiction or Non- Fiction), Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.
World premiere of ‘Still Burning’, by Lebanese director Georges Hachem, adds to the exciting Muhr feature lineup. This is Hachem’s second visit to DIFF following the success of his first feature ‘Stray Bullet’, which won Best Arab Film in the Muhr competition in 2010. The film is supported by Enjaaz from Dubai Film Market and it stars Wajdi Mouawad and Fadi Abi Samra as two old friends who unexpectedly meet after years of not seeing each other. A night-long reunion awakens their repressed demons where in the past, they both shared not only the same burning passion for cinema, but also for the same woman.
The Jordanian entry by filmmaker Mahmoud Al Massad brings DIFF’s audiences a fast-paced and comic screening with ‘Blessed Benefit’, supported by Enjaaz from Dubai Film Market. Construction worker Ahmad, played by Ahmad Thaher, gets unfairly imprisoned after being tangled up in an unfortunate business deal. At first, it appears Ahmad will be chewed-up and spat-out, but after his last hope to prove his innocence is ruined, he is awakened by the realization that a life behind bars could lead to brighter prospects than he had first anticipated.
‘Withered Green’ from Egyptian director Mohamed Hammad, starring Heba Ali, Asmaa Fawzi and John Ekram, is an emotionally rich story of a religious woman, Iman, who has to accommodate patriarchal traditions in order for her younger sister to proceed with her engagement. However, after receiving unfortunate medical results, Iman is pushed to disregard and put aside her long kept customs and traditions.
Lebanese director Eliane Raheb brings the world premiere of non-fiction film ‘Those Who Remain’ to DIFF, supported by Enjaaz from Dubai Film Market. The film features Haykal Mikhael, an old Christian farmer who is working to build a home within Al Shambouk, one of Lebanon’s highest mountainous areas which is situated close to the Syrian border. In order to defend Lebanon’s coexistence, he must remain on his adored land, dealing with religious and social tensions.
Drawing on detailed and personal stories, the world premiere of non-fiction ‘A Memory in Khaki’ by Syrian director Alfoz Tanjour delves into the past to tell the story of Syria’s future. The audience is guided through the explosion of the Syrian revolution with compelling tension. Five decades of oppression and fear is explored through the intimate narratives of individuals who faced secularism and in turn, were forced to flee their country.
World premiere ‘Terra Firma’ from director Laurent Aït Benalla, supported by Enjaaz from Dubai Film Market, captures the events of a small commercial harbor in southern France as two sailors, who watch over abandoned ferries, witness men, machines and animals transiting through the space that opens out to the sea.
‘Hedi’ is a captivating Tunisian drama from director Mohamed Ben Attia, supported by Enjaaz from Dubai Film Market, featuring Majd Mastoura, Rym Ben Messaoud, Sabah Bouzouita and Omnia Ben Ghali. As a quiet young man with no gumption, Hedi allows others to make big decisions on his behalf. As his mother is preparing for his wedding, Hedi’s life is enlightened when he meets a free spirited woman, Rim, sparking a passionate romance. Faced with a crossroad, Hedi is finally forced to choose his own path for the first time in his life.
Joining the exceptional line-up is renowned Egyptian director Magdy Ahmed Aly with the world premiere of ‘The Preacher’. Starring Amr Saad, Dorra, Ahmed Magdy, Bayoumi Fouad and Reham Haggag, the story follows a Sheikh who not only leads prayers at a government mosque, but is also an influential TV celebrity. With hundreds of fans and projecting as a powerful individual on screen, he desperately attempts to stay above the institutions’ politics in order to save his personal life when he is tangled up in a thick web of conflict.
Award winning Moroccan independent filmmaker Hakim Belabbes returns to DIFF once again with the world premiere of ‘Sweat Rain’ after winning multiple awards and accolades at DIFF in previous years, including winning the Best Scriptwriter Award in the Muhr Arab Feature category at the Festival in 2011 for his feature ‘Boiling Dreams’. Starring Ayoub Khalfaoui and Fatima Ezzahra, ‘Sweat Rain’ is the story of a small farmer whose livelihood is under threat. Whilst his attentions are on keeping his land, his wife struggles in silence to carry her husband’s heavy burdens in order to hold the families foundations together.
Wrapping up the prestigious lineup is Lebanese director Hady Zaccak’s touching non-fiction story of time and loss with the world premiere ‘104 Wrinkles’. In the film, Zaccak follows his grandmother Henriette while she is aging slowly and approaching the ripe age of 104. Audiences will be swept away on a century-long journey as he captures the transformation of her memory, her emigration from Lebanon to Brazil and the stories of love, children and suspended time.
Masoud Amralla Al Ali, DIFF’s Artistic Director, commented on the role of the Muhr Feature category: “DIFF’s Muhr feature program plays a key role in shaping the film production industry within the Arab world, with many internationally recognized actors and filmmakers utilizing the platform to showcase their world premieres. We are proud to offer audiences a plethora of engaging films which span a whole host of genres, each with their own unique stories and editorial styles, constructed from diverse perspectives. The selection of Muhr Feature films will undoubtedly add a new creative touch to the world of Arab cinema.”
Antoine Khalife, Director of the Arab Program, added: “DIFF’s Muhr Feature program recognizes inventive and distinctive work from the Arab filmmaking world. Shining light on the talent originating from the Arab world, this heavily contested selection of films share stories and diverse perspectives which unite cultures. It is always a pleasure to work with such a variety of engaging content and this year I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the variety of films which include a plethora of captivating subjects revolving around identity, memory, power, betrayal, absurdity, frustration, sacrifice and decisions.”
The 13th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival will take place from the December 7th to December 14th, 2016.