British ducumaker Sean McAllister’s timely “A Syrian Love Story,” about a family of Syrian refugees in Europe, Hany Abu Assad’s “The Idol,” and “Yallah! Underground,” depicting the post Arab Spring music scene, by Farid Eslam (“Istanbul United”), are among standout titles set to unspool in The Dubai Film Festival’s Arabian Nights section showcasing pics which take the pulse of cultural, political and economic shifts throughout the Middle East.
Mcallister, a BBC journalist and filmmaker known for “The Liberace of Baghdad,” and “The Reluctant Revolutionary,” started shooting “A Syrian Love Story” in 2009, before the civil war broke out. The docu, which won the Grand Jury prize at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, is an intimate portrait of a couple called Amer and Raghda who fell in love while in a Syrian prison for their political beliefs. When they flee Syria with their children due to horrors of the conflict, their strife as refugees strains the relationship.
Buzzed-about “The Idol” (pictured) about Palestinian pop singer Mohammed Assaf who went from being a kid in a refugee camp in Gaza to winning the second season of “Arab Idol” in 2013 and thereafter was named a goodwill ambassador for peace by the United Nations, was supported by DIFF’s post-production support programme Enjaaz.
Other titles selected for the non-competitive Dubai section, which is a key component of the prominent fest, are veteran Algerian auteur Merzak Allouache’s “Madame Courage,” about an unstable Algerian teenager who lives in a slum and is addicted to psychotropic drugs; Moroccan director Philippe Faucon’s “Fatima,” about a Moroccan-born mother raising her two teenage daughters in Lyon; and Franco-Algerian filmmaker Nassim Amaouche’s thriller “The Apaches” (Des Apaches). Two debuts also made the cut: Greek/French director Joyce Nashwati’s “Blind Sun” about Ashraf, a solitary Arab immigrant living in Greece during the current crisis; and Palestinian director Muayad Elayan’s “Love, Theft and Other Entanglements” in which a Palestian man named Mousa steals car which has a kidnapped Israeli soldier tied up in the trunk.
Dubai artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali called the selection, made by section curator Delphine Garde-Mroueh, “a platform for Arab and International directors to make statements and challenge preconceptions about the region we call home.”
The twelfth edition of Dubai will run December 9-16.