Highlights Cinéma Arabe 2016
The eighth edition of Festival Cinéma Arabe will take place from 19 to 24 april in Amsterdam, in Rialto, De Balie en Studio/k. Afterwards, between 28 april and 7 may LantarenVenster in Rotterdam, Slieker Film in Leeuwarden, Verkadefabriek in Den Bosch and Filmhuis Den Haag will present a beautiful selection of the programme. Below some highlights.
Between two cultures
What do you leave behind, what do you hold on to, and which new things do you pick up when you settle in another country? Migration is more relevant than ever; a good reason to direct the focus to life between two cultures. For eighteen-year-old Lina, who leaves Lebanon during the civil war, nostalgia is not an option. Her future lies in France, and she sucks up her new country like a sponge in Parisienne (peur de rien). She is from a different generation and chiefly from a different social class than Fatima from the film of the same name by Philippe Faucon. Fatima has based her hope for the future on her daughters, in whom she invests everything she has. She has to adjust this strategy, when it appears that her own lack of connection alienates her youngest daughter from her. Another type of generation conflict arises in Mariam, in which a secondary school pupil, to the dismay of her liberal father, decides to wear a headscarf. Des Apaches also follows a main character from the second generation, who explores an unknown part of his cultural background. Finally, the consequences that can arise when two generations completely don’t understand each other’s culture become clear in Bezness as usual.
The hope raised by the uprisings in the Arab world five years ago and the disillusionment that followed, determine the background of several films from the Cinéma Arabe program. After the outbreak of protests against their authoritarian, and corrupt regimes, the status quo in most of the countries has returned. The desired redistribution of wealth and power did not happen, and the freedom of citizens only became further restricted. Jihan El-Tahri’s trilogy about Egypt’s ‘modern pharaohs’: Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak places the recent developments in historical perspective. Her analysis of the rise and fall of three exemplary leaders shows how, in the in the seizure of power by Egyptian president Sisi, resounds the echo of the past, and how in the name of the revolution democracy is again suspended. The film trilogy gives clear insight into the patterns that have determined the history of Egypt since the end of World War II, and lays bare the forces that still have an impact on developments in the Middle East.
When Mohammad Assaf reached the final of Arab Idol in 2013, he represented the national hopes of the Palestinians and the pride of Arabs around the world. His success story, as told in Hany Abu-Assad’s The idol, illustrates the unifying power of music and its inspiring potency. Before and during the Arab Spring, progressive musicians were also important disseminators of the spirit of change. Some of them can be seen and heard in the documentary Yallah! Underground, which also pays attention to various forms of opposition and repression that independent artists in the Arab world are being confronted with. The critical sound of a group of punk musicians in the film As I open my eyes also touches a sensitive nerve with the Tunisian authorities. The film is set in the summer of 2010 and is pervaded with the subversive mood that results in a powerful call for change six months later.
Corruption and criminality, political chaos and religious hair-splitting: you can expose it in a serious tone, or you can mock it in a light-hearted or indeed razor-sharp way. The more absurd the reality, the greater the need for humour – perhaps this provides an explanation for the (black) comedy productions which can be seen this year at Cinéma Arabe. In Love, theft and other entanglements the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides a totally natural setting for bizarre entanglements, in which politics plays an inevitable role. The Lebanese crime comedy Very big shot gives a hilarious glimpse of a film set where a drugs dealer decides to act as a producer. In a number of short films the comical situations arise from more mundane dilemmas: the practical application of religious rules leads to conflicts in the short films Ave Maria and The veil of jealousy while the tormented taxi driver in Stranded is simply longing for a brief moment of privacy. In Waiting for the fall the despairing attempts of the inhabitants of a Syrian village to continue with life as normal, rather underline the fragmented and absurd reality of civil war.