Dubai Film Fest Announces Timely Arab Competition Lineup

The Dubai International Film Festival has announced the full lineup of its Muhr Arab feature film section featuring nineteen titles, many of which world preems, providing a panoply of perspectives into topical political and social-economic issues rattling the region, often depicted though a personal prism.

New works from known Arab auteurs launching from this core section of the Dubai fest include Egyptian distaff director Hala Khalil’s “Nawara,” about a young woman who works as a housemaid for a family closely connected with the Mubarak regime during its final throes, and Egyptian writer and director Mahmood Soliman’s docu “We Have Never Been Kids,” also set in the final period of the Mubarak era.

Danish/Palestinian actor/director Omar Shargawi’s is bowing his Dogme-style drama “Al Medina,” in which Shargawi stars as a man who returns with his Danish wife to his Arab birthplace where he is imprisoned. Iraq-born, Norway-based helmer Halkawt Mustafa’s “El Clasico,” also world-preeming, is about two young brothers in Northern Iraq who are both football fans hellbent on meeting Real Madrid star forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Standout Arab entries launching into the Middle East from Dubai, after previously bowing elsewhere on the fest circuit, comprise Moroccan helmer Hisham Lasri’s Casablanca-set “Starve Your Dog” and U.S.-based Palestinian filmmaker Mai Masri’s “3,000 Nights,” about an unjustly incarcerated Palestinian schoolteacher who gives birth in an Israeli prison. These both bowed in Toronto. Tunisian director Leyla Bouzid’s “As I Open My Eyes,” set against the backdrop of the Arab Spring as it relates to a local politicised rock band, instead bowed in Venice where it scored the Europa Cinemas Label nod.

In a statement DIFF Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali underlined how the growing number of female filmmakers across the Arab world makes this year’s selection “more varied in perspective.”

Though women directors account for less than one third of the works vying in this year’s Dubai Arab competition, it’s true that the region is becoming a bastion for female filmmaking empowerment.

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