Special Report: Arab Film Festival, 9th Annual – The Cinemaayat

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
Fall is in the air in San Francisco, and it’s time for the ninth annual Arab Film Festival, the Cinemaayat. At a time when cross-cultural understanding of the Arab world is so important the Cinemaayat provides an entrée to learning about the Arab cultures, and Arab Americans through film arts.

This year the Arab Film Festival will show more than 40 films, including feature narratives, shorts and documentaries from some of the 23 diverse Arab countries from Chad to Sudan to Lebanon.

The festival opens on Friday, September 23 and closes Sunday, October 2 and has screenings in San Francisco at the Castro Theater, in San Jose at the Camera 12, and in Berkeley at the California Theater and Wheeler Auditorium. There are other screenings at Stanford University, UCSF. After an opening night welcome reception at the Castro at 5:30 the funny and touching, "Sabah" will be shown, about a Syrian family living in Canada. Sabah is the unmarried sister, who at age forty finds forbidden love with what the family calls a "foreigner," a Canadian. Sabah is by veteran director Ruba Nadda who has another film in the festival, "Aadan" about the right to practice religious beliefs. Nadda will be present for a Q & A after the screening of "Sabah".

The festival has some strong documentaries including "All About Darfur" which will screen in San Jose and Berkeley. Don’t miss "The Dream of Sparrows" to get a glimpse of what is really happening in Iraq right now during the American occupation. We get to see how Iraqis are living and hear what they are thinking. We see heartbreaking footage of what is called, "collateral damage" in our news. It ends with the tragic death of the film’s associate producer who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was murdered by American Soldiers with 123 bullet holes in his car. Another doc not to miss is the LinkTV Palestinian-Israeli duo’s "Occupied Minds." Jamal Dajani and David Michaelis travel to their birth lands, Jerusalem and through their conversations and interviews, we get to have insight, albeit bitter and unresolved, about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Beb El Web" by Merzak Allouache is the story of an Algerian street vendor who is eagerly awaiting his internet chat room partner living in Paris. The
complications in this one are both humorous and touching.

"Door to the Sun" by Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah, closes the festival on October 2 at Wheeler Hall in Berkeley. This epic drama chronicles the history of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict through the story of one uprooted Palestinian family. The four-hour screening will be shown in two parts with a reception in between.

See the program on-line for more descriptions of the films; next week I will summarize some of the documentaries.

For more information about the Arab Film Festival, call 415-564-1100 or visit aff.org.
More Information:
Arab Film Festival, 9th Annual – The Cinemaayat
San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Jose.