Special Report: 10th Annual Arab Film Festival

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
10th Annual Arab Film Festival Ė 2006

Summer is over, and itís time for the 10th Annual Arab Film Festival! From September 8 to 17 there are nine days of films and events in San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose, and Stanford University.

The AFF boasts 45 films from 14 countries, mostly from the Middle East and Northern Africa, but also Europe, the US, and Canada. Each of the films Iíve screened offers a glimpse into a world within the widely diverse Arab cultures represented from countries as varied as Qatar and Morocco, Lebanon, and Palestine. It shows us what is important to the citizens, and a little about how they see the world, their city streets, what colors they paint their front doors, a little about how love is expressed, the architecture, fashion, and food.

In addition to films, the AFF offers fun events like the opening night reception this Friday night at 6pm, and after party which take place across from the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco at the PS Cafť, with music by the George Lammam Ensemble, with a repertoire of pan-Arabic music.

One of the opening films "Zozo," from Lebanon and Sweden by director Josef Fares, is a feature that opens in Lebanon during the 1987 civil war. A young boy, Zozo finds himself alone and in the middle of the combat; he finds a baby chick and imagines that the chick talks to him, giving him helpful guidance. It is a deeply moving account of the painful reality of war and how Zozo copes and rises from the ashes of destruction. The young boy is perfectly casted, as is his grandfather. "Zozo" won the most coveted film award for a feature in Sweden.

"Kiss Me Not On The Eyes," from Egypt, by a Lebanese director Jocelyne Saab, like many of the dramas in the Arab Film Festival, examines cultural traditions and self expression. This stylized film was worth it for me for the affecting dancing. "Bled Number One" is from the award-winning director Rabah Ameur-Zaimesh, from Algeria, and also takes a look at the beliefs and traditions and self-expression. The cinematography is notable, and hues and images compelling.

"Linda and Ali" is the documentary about an American woman, Linda who has been married to Ali and lives in Qatar with him and their seven children. This filmmakers capture the essence of who Linda and Ali are, and the way the family handles the challenges of a cross-cultural marriage. "A Stranger in Her Own City" is a short documentary that chronicles the daily life of a 7th grade girl, Nedjmia, in a Yemeni city who refused to wear the burka. She is chided constantly for her odd behavior but stands her ground, with a twist at the end. The documentary, "Improvisations" shows us a family of Palestinian oud makers and musicians, with moving performances in which they play their music in a plea for peace.

"Out of Place-Out of Time" is by Australian documentarian Stefan Markworth; he lives in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon for three months and shows us what he finds; his reverential treatment of the residents is moving. "Seeds of Doubt," the feature from Germany is a compelling well-paced drama about an Algerian immigrant who is suspected of being involved in the 911 atrocities. His German wife faces doubts in her mind about her husbandís guilt.

Donít miss "Occupation 101: Voices of a Silenced Majority," co-presented by the San Francisco Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, which presents a primer of the complex Israeli/Palestinian conflict, with pre-1948 archival footage, an historical account from the beginning of the 1900ís, interviews with prominent Middle Eastern scholars, peace activists, humanitarian workers, and religious leaders, and information about the military and financial aid that the US provides Israel. Several of the filmmakers will be present for discussions after the films.

For more information about the 10th Arab Film Festival, including the film schedule and descriptions, the Shorts Program, Panel discussions, Meet the Filmmaker Party, Focus on Syria, and ticket sales, go to aff.org

See you at the 10th annual Arab Film Festival! For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield.

Air Date: 9/06/06
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10th Annual Arab Film Festival
Middle East, Northern Africa, Europe, US, Canada, Chad