Making films in troubled regions like the Mid East is difficult to say the least. “While aspiring filmmakers all over the world struggle to raise funding and gain recognition, most don’t have to contend with kidnappings, imprisonment and smuggling equipment across borders.” The issues facing five such filmmakers was recounted recently at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, as discussed here.
The 16th Annual Arab Film Festival opened October 11 at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco with the Opening Night film Man Without a Cell Phone in its West Coast Premier (see the trailer here) which is also the Centerpiece film for the Los Angeles festival opening TODAY: October 19th at 8pm, preceded by a VIP reception at 6:30pm at the Writers Guild Theater of America. The festival runs October 11th-21st in San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley and Los Angeles.
The Arab Film Festival is North America’s largest and longest running exhibitor of independent Arab movies from and about the Arab World. This year’s fest of 40 films from 27 countries offers a full complement of narrative and documentary features, doc and narrative short films with National and West Coast Premieres.
Opening Night film director Sameh Zoabi will be present for Q&A following Man Without A Cell Phone October 11th, a narrative feature that portrays Palestinian-Israeli Jawdat, who just wants to have fun with his friends and talk on his cell phone. His determined way of life is interrupted when his father launches a protest against an Israeli cell phone tower he fears is poisoning the villagers. The film premiered in the U.S. at the New Directors/ New Films, has played in Israel at the Haifa International FF, Qatar at the Doha Tribeca FF, Karlovy Vary FFl, Jerusalem FF, Vancouver FF, Paris Quinzaine du Cinema Francophone. It is in distribution in France through Eurozoom.
Among films presenting perspectives infrequently aired in mainstream American media is the North American premiere of Karama Has No Walls, which depicts the turning point in Yemen’s revolution. Filmmaker Sara Ishaq will be present for the October 14th screening to discuss documenting the contrast between the festive peaceful protest and its transformation to a warzone.
Premiering on the West Coast, Arab Film Festival veteran Iara Lee explores the Syrian conflict through the humanity of the civilians displaced to the squalor of refugee camps in feature documentary The Suffering Grasses. Hip-Hop artist hailing from the great Nation-State-of-Mind known as “SyrianamericanA” Omar Offendum is special guest for Q&A October 20th at 11am at the Writer’s Guild Theater of America.
From Egypt comes the courageous spirit of a young Egyptian female journalist in documentary Words of Witness (ISA: Films Transit) screening in the Bay Area premiere, and the evocative, “eerily prophetic” narrative feature Lust – Egypt’s 84th Academy Awards submission. As eclectic in its adventures as its title, The Virgin, The Copts and Me (ISA: Doc & Film International) from Egyptian-French filmmaker Namir Abdel Messeeh provides comic relief via his escapades researching the story behind apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Egypt. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and played at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.
North Africa selections include compelling drama Death for Sale (ISA: Urban Distribution International) set in Moroccan port city Tetouan, and North American premiere Papa Hedi: The Search for My Grandfather feature documentary by granddaughter of Tunisian composer Hedi Jouini -the Frank Sinatra of the Arab World in San Jose October 13.
Jess Ghannam, President of the Board of the Arab Film Festival, adds “We’re pleased to screen films that illuminate the diversity of the Arab experience, and show the beauty and talent of Arab culture.”
Visit www.arabfilmfestival.orgfor the complete festival schedule. Tickets may be purchased online or at theaters. For ticket information, call 415-564-1100.
San Francisco, Oct 11-14, Castro Theatre and Embarcadero Cinema.
San Jose, Oct 13-14, Camera 12 Cinema
Berkeley, Oct 19-21, Shattuck Cinemas
Los Angeles, Oct 19-21, Writers Guild Theater of America