The Twin Cities Arab Film Festival is finally here! This year, the festival covers a wide range of pertinent and urgent issues, especially in light of ongoing islamophobia and xenophobia targeting immigrants and refugees globally. Here, we have compiled a list of films that highlight the stories of people who grapple with, resist and remember conflicts and tragedies in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. Below are the blurbs featured on the official festival website. The 2017 Arab Film Festival will go on from September 27th-October 1st.
Directed by Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine | Palestine/Germany | 2016 | 87 minutes
Gaza is a small strip of land with a population of 1.7 million. Wedged between Israel and Egypt, it is isolated from the outside world and, as a result of Israel’s ongoing occupation, the area’s 26 miles of coastline no longer services ships. Hardly anything gets in and even less gets out. While the young people of Gaza lack job prospects and suffer the indignities of life under occupation, this doesn’t stop them from surfing. Gaza Surf Club follows the dedicated members of the surf community in Gaza City, who must use smuggled surfboards to pursue their passion. Juxtaposing experiences of oppression and escape, the film captures brief and beautiful moments of freedom for Gaza’s youth.
Directed by Zaradasht Ahmed | Iraq/Sweden/Norway | 2016 | 86 minute
This is the story of one man’s struggle in Iraq, where war has become the norm. The enemy is invisible and there are no safe places to hide. Nori Sharif, a 36-year-old nurse, husband, and father of four, takes up a camera and begins documenting life in one of Iraq’s most dangerous provinces, Diyala. As the Americans retreat in 2011 and the war erupts anew, Nori records the destruction without choosing sides. The film covers a period of five years and a series of dramatic events, beginning with hope for a better future, through witnessing the growth of ISIS, and eventually documenting the fall of Nori’s home town. As Nori films, he begins to turn the camera on himself.
Directed by Magdy Ahmed Ali | Egypt | 2016 | 130 minutes
Hatem (Amr Saad), a moderate young preacher in Cairo, becomes a television celebrity with millions of fans. This makes him a perfect tool for government manipulation on a mass scale, as his eloquence and wit are employed by key figures in the Egyptian state to influence policy and religious practice. However, when the cameras are off, bloody struggles for state power rage, and as Hatem tries to stay out of political and sectarian disputes, his personal and professional life become increasingly consumed by the complex tapestry of Egyptian politics. Based on a novel by the same name, Mawlana by Ibrahim Issa, the story offers a critique of power, corruption, and fundamentalism in Egyptian society. In addition, this dark and convincing film highlights the importance of media in the production of political and religious agendas.
Directed by Eliane Raheb | Lebanon/UAE | 2017 | 95 minutes
Shambouk is a historically complicated area in Northern Lebanon just a few kilometers away from Syria where borders, religious doctrines, and communities intersect. Haykal, a 60 year-old Christian farmer, lives there and runs a restaurant and is in the process of building a house. Those Who Remain follows Haykal’s struggle to stay on his land amidst sectarian tensions, fear, and hopelessness.
Directed by Obaidah Zytoon and Andreas Møl Dalsgaard | Syria/Denmark/Sweden/Finland | 2016 | 100 minutes
The War Show tracks the experiences of radio host Obaidah Zytoon and her friends after they join the street protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in March 2011. This group of artists and activists filmed their perspective on this pivotal moment, even as the regime’s violent response spiraled into a bloody civil war and their hopes for a better future were tested by imprisonment and death. While making the film, Zytoon journeyed throughout the country, from her hometown Zabadani to the center of the rebellion in Homs and to northern Syria. A deeply personal road movie, The War Show captures the fate of Syria through the intimate story of a small circle of friends as their lives intersect with war.
Directed by Amjad Al-Rasheed and Darin Sallam | Jordan/Germany | 2016 | 18 minutes
A Mizrahi Jewish family from Tunisia settles into their new life and their new home in Haifa, Palestine in 1948. The house is lovely, but it contains the memories of its previous Arab residents and the pet they left behind: a large and chatty parrot.