Blog Contemporary Arab Cinema, a Week of Provocative Films and Engaging Conversations

Posted September 5, 2017

By Lina Matta, curator of Contemporary Arab Cinema

I never understood the tipping point that could start or end a war. I was 13 when civil war broke out in Lebanon and in the States when it “ended” 15 years later. How one day’s murderous hate could become tomorrow’s coexistence still mystifies me. Our Opening Night film, The Insult, by award-winning director Ziad Doueiri’s is about the simmering hate lying just beneath the surface waiting for that one match that lights its fuse. That theme is revisited in the charming comedy Solitaire, wherein a mother who despises Syrians because of her brother’s death during the Lebanese war, is faced with the prospect of her daughter marrying one. First time filmmaker Sophie Boutros will be joining us on Skype for a Q&A after the screening.

Another film touching on Lebanon’s civil war is last year’s quiet Cannes Film Festival powerhouse, Tramontane, about a young blind musician randomly stumbling on a web of lies that cover a long-hidden truth dating back to the war. In Clash, demonstrators from diverse political factions get arrested in Tahrir Square and tossed into a police van in award-winning filmmaker Mohamed Diab’s film. Will their predicament bring them together to fight a common enemy or will they turn on each other? The director will be joining us via Skype, after the film. We are showing two other films that deal with the simmering under-currents of religion and corruption in Egypt: Filmmaker Magdy Ahmed Ali will be in attendance for Mawlana (The Preacher), a Golden Globe nominee, about a popular TV preacher who gets lured into a web of political intrigue and Before the Summer Crowds, whose drama unfolds in a palate of soft pastels on Egypt’s answer to the Hamptons, the North Coast, where people with beach homes escape the city for some privacy from peering eyes and loose tongues.

On a beach in Tunis, soft-spoken car salesman Hedi breaks free from the shackles of his overbearing mother to find love in the arms of the free-spirited resort activity director, Rym, in this film that won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Heartbreak is the theme of two other movies in the series, In Between and The Dark Wind. Maysaloun Hamoud’s taboo-breaking first feature, In Between, about a veiled Muslim woman who rooms with two hard-partying Arab Israelis breaks all stereotypes about Palestinian women living in Israel. The Dark Wind breaks your heart as a young Yazidi girl is punished several times over by ISIS soldiers who kidnap and rape her; later, she is rejected by her townsfolk, despite the loyal stance taken by her fiancé.

A more concrete war front is tackled by the white helmet volunteers who risk their lives and that of their families’ to save their fellow countrymen in last year’s Sundance documentary winner The Last Men in Aleppo. Filmmaker Feras Fayyad will join us for a Q&A after the film. Another Sundance winner, The Nile Hilton Incident reveals the internal struggles of a corrupt policeman attempting to do the right thing in solving the murder of a singer with links to Egypt’s elite. Finally, former prisoners come face to face with the torture they experienced in an Israeli prison as the director, Raed Andoni, casts them in the role of both interrogators and prisoners, in the award-winning, Berlin International Film Festival documentary, Ghost Hunting.

Join us for a sterling year of incredible, thought-provoking films! More information and tickets available HERE.

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