×

Documentaries at Abu Dhabi Film Festival Cast Spotlight on Arab World

The Arab world has long dished up heaping servings of documentaries, but there’s something different these days: the quality of the films is higher thanks in part to Arab fests and funds that are fostering what could become a new wave of more naturalistic cinema in the region.

The proliferation of Arab factuals first started about a decade ago as broadcasters Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya began producing plenty of low-budget straightforward pieces depicting regional turbulence.

But more recently docus from the region have become much more lively and original, as their helmers gain greater cachet and more international traction.

“Through documentaries, Arab filmmakers are moving towards a more structured and articulated storytelling narrative,” says ADFF chief programmer Teresa Cavina. She cites 3D docu “Iraqi Odyssey,” by Switzerland-based Iraqi director Samir, tracing the migrations of his extended family, now scattered all over the world, weaving wistful and witty testimonies of his relatives with rare documents from private and state archives, plus Ottoman film footage.

She also points to directors Amer Al Shomali and Paul Cowan’s “The Wanted 18,” which re-creates a story involving the Israeli army’s pursuit of 18 cows on a Palestinian collective farm and makes use of stop-motion animation, drawings and interviews. Both will screen in Abu Dhabi after bowing in Toronto.

Making its world preem in Abu Dhabi will be “Pirates of Sale,” an observational docu about a group of young people who are picked out of hundreds to join a famed circus on the edge of one of Morocco’s poorest slums. It’s co-directed by Moroccan Merieme Addou and Brit Rosa Rogers.

The fest will also host a panel with producers and fest honchos on Arab cinema and how it’s perceived in the outside world. Docus will certainly be a big part of the conversation.
“I think that there is a strong need for storytelling that is rooted in reality,” says fest topper Ali Al Jabri.

This could easily spill over into fictional features as well. “The more you look at reality, the more you want to talk about reality in your own personal way,” he says.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

  • Pod Save America Hosts on Trump

    'Pod Save America' Hosts on Trump, the Democratic Primary and What's Wrong With Cable News

    Like many Democrats, Tanya Somanader was blindsided by the 2016 presidential election. A veteran of the Obama White House and a former speechwriter and digital specialist for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Somanader was gearing up for a Hillary Clinton administration. Instead, she had to grapple with the reality of a Donald Trump presidency. “A lot [...]

  • Ann Sarnoff Warner Bros

    Ann Sarnoff Formally Takes Reins of Warner Bros. as CEO

    The Ann Sarnoff era at Warner Bros. has begun. Sarnoff formally took the reins as Warner Bros. chair-CEO on Thursday, two months after she was appointed to the post. Sarnoff told employees in a memo that she has been impressed by the company’s track record during the past year amid a period of upheaval for [...]

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Harvey Weinstein to Be Arraigned on New Indictment

    Harvey Weinstein is set to appear in court on Monday for an arraignment on a new indictment, the Manhattan D.A.’s office said Thursday. Prosecutors announced last week that they would seek a fresh indictment, which would allow actress Annabella Sciorra to testify at Weinstein’s trial. The move came after Justice James Burke ruled on Aug. [...]

  • AI Technology David Beckham

    How AI Tech Is Changing Dubbing, Making Stars Like David Beckham Multilingual

    David Beckham does not speak Arabic, Hindi or Mandarin. But when the soccer legend starred in a PSA for malaria awareness this spring, he effortlessly switched among these and six other languages, thanks to cutting-edge technology that could soon change how Hollywood localizes its movies and TV shows. The PSA in question was produced with technology [...]

  • Eminem Publisher Sues Spotify, Claiming Copyright

    Eminem Publisher Sues Spotify, Claiming Massive Copyright Infringement

    Eight Mile Style, a publishing company that holds administration rights to Eminem’s early catalog, filed a major copyright infringement lawsuit against Spotify late Thursday, claiming that the streaming giant has no license to host about 250 of Eminem’s songs, while also taking aim at the Music Modernization Act, the federal law enacted last year to [...]

  • iQIYI headquarters building in Beijing

    China’s iQIYI in Talks for Indonesia Expansion

    Chinese streaming firm iQIYI is in negotiations to expand further into Southeast Asia through a venture with Indonesia’s Media Nusantara Citra. iQIYI announced its first step outside Chinese-majority territories in June, when it revealed a linkup in Malaysia with pay-TV leader Astro. It also operates in Taiwan. In April, the company said that it planned [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content