Films Programs

Arabian Nights

Since December 2010, political upheaval has swept through country after country in the Arab world, leading international pundits to proclaim the Arab Spring a political movement with greater global impact than the fall of the Berlin Wall. Not surprisingly, you can find the roots of this volatility and maybe even the seeds of change reflected in myriad ways in the dynamic and dramatic movies emanating from this part of the world.

These 11 titles from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian territories and the United Arab Emirates consist of ten fictional tales, and the experimental work The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni, a meta-cinematic tribute to the legendary Egyptian actress. Each is revolutionary in its own way.

We have films for the entire family such as the heartwarming intergenerational tale How Big Is Your Love, dramas challenging social issues and traditional taboos (Transit Cities, Asma’a and Cairo 678), and the comedy Man Without A Cell Phone, which uses humor to highlight the injustices faced by Israel’s minority class.

Universal themes– relationships, love and sex–take pride of place. Sea Shadow is a gentle coming-of-age story following two teenagers on the rocky road to adulthood while Habibi (listed in the New Voices, New Visions section, page TK) and The Rif Lover offer star-crossed romances. Illicit sex becomes a form of rebellion in On the Edge and the Arabian Nights Gala film, Love in the Medina.

Throughout the festival you will find other titles that complement our special focus. The American independent film David looks at Muslim and Jewish communities in Brooklyn and questions the boundaries of cultures and religions. Omar Killed Me, Morocco’s Awards Buzz entry, is a gripping thriller based on one of the most shocking miscarriages of justice in French history, while Canada’s poignant Monsieur Lazhar follows an Algerian immigrant in Montreal. Archival screening Cairo Station represents the late, great Egyptian director Youssef Chahine at his best. And Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was shot in Morocco and features Egyptian star Amr Waked.

Arabian Nights is programmed in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, with special thanks to ADFF director Peter Scarlet for sharing his advise and expertise.


Asma’a   

Asma’a
Egypt, 2011, 96 min.
Devout, careworn widow Asma’a has a secret. She is HIV-positive in a world where the disease is still stigmatized. Ultimately, the host of a daring TV show inspires Asma’a to speak out and fight back – both against her illness and social ignorance.... more



Cairo 678   

Cairo 678
Egypt, 2010, 100 min.
Tackling the issue of sexual harassment, which continues to plague Egyptian society, this social issues drama focuses on three women from different backgrounds. Cairo 678 forces viewers to question assumptions and prejudices while refusing to offer up easy answers.... more



Habibi   

Habibi
Palestine, 2011, 78 min.
The first fiction feature set in Gaza in over 15 years offers a story of forbidden love. Can Qays, a poet from the refugee camp, build a future with Layla, the daughter of a traditional, religious family?... more



How Big is Your Love   

How Big is Your Love
Algeria, 2011, 98 min.
A heartwarming examination of childhood and love in modern Algiers. With his parents breaking up, 8-year-old Adel is sent to live with his grandparents. Soon it’s like he’s lived there forever, he’s so intimately wrapped up in their lives.... more



Love in the Medina   

Love in the Medina
Morocco, 2011, 113 min.
In this colorful melodrama, a young man from a conservative Moroccan family infuriates his father when he decides to become a butcher. Soon he discovers that there is only one thing that he loves more than choice cuts… Women.... more



Man Without a Cell Phone   

Man Without a Cell Phone
Palestinian Territories, 2010, 80 min.
An Arab-Israeli village's new cell-phone tower quickly goes from minor annoyance to symbol of oppression. In turn, charming slacker Jawdat abandons youthful aimlessness for activism. Tempering its pointed politics with gentle humour, Sameh Zoabi's dramedy is an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser. ... more



On The Edge   

On The Edge
France, 2011, 106 min.
In the demimonde of nocturnal Tangier, four street-smart young women struggle to escape their poverty turning tricks and pawning stolen valuables. Winner: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Taormina Film Festival.... more



The Rif Lover   

The Rif Lover
Morocco, 2011, 90 min.
A bold, visually ravishing tale of women struggling against the bonds of tradition as a beautiful but naïve 20-year-old falls into the clutches of a drug baron.... more



Sea Shadow   

Sea Shadow
United Arab Emirates, 2011, 98 min.
Set in a small seaside town in the Emirates, this gentle coming-of-age story follows two teenagers on the road to adulthood. Bound by tradition and deeply rooted values, Mansoor and his pretty cousin Kaltham must find the courage to forge their own paths.... more



The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni   

The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni
Lebanon, 2011, 68 min.
Beautifully conceived and expertly edited, this playful documentary uses a wealth of clips from Egyptian star Hosni's films to explore the iconic actress’s screen image and shed light on the Arab world’s most popular cinema.... more



Transit Cities   

Transit Cities
Jordan, 2010, 72 min.
A 36-year-old divorcee returns to Amman after 14 years in the U.S., but finds her hometown, family and friends much changed. This affecting drama strikes enough universal notes pertaining to cultural estrangement to resonate with expats of any stripe.... more



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