Contemporary Arab Cinema

I’ve spent the last year scouring Arab film festivals, looking for the perfect mix of narratives and and documentaries to provide JBFC audiences with a perspective on the Middle East that strays far from the headlines. This year’s selection concentrates on personal journeys, real and metaphorical, while politics mostly remain in the background. —Lina Matta, curator

GUEST CURATOR LINA MATTA WILL INTRODUCE EVERY SCREENING

A Lebanese-American based in Dubai, Lina Matta is the Senior Channel Manager of the Middle East Broadcast Company (MBC) channels 2, 4, Max, and Variety. She has programmed this series for the JBFC since 2012. Lina will also be on hand to introduce each film and moderate all filmmaker Q&As.

 
This series celebrates award-winning films from the Arab world, shining a light on the people of this region through the work of the talented directors who are bringing their stories to the screen.

Single, Married, Divorced

Single, Married, Divorced


Four smart, funny, and successful 30-something single women are searching for love in Beirut. Lebanon’s answer to “Sex and the City,” this popular film offers real insight into a number of issues and taboos Lebanese woman face while showing—hilariously and touchingly—how hope, fantasies, and heartache are universal. Based on a Lebanese best-seller. North American premiere.

Opening Night with reception: Join us for a reception in the Jane Peck Gallery after the screening.

Elie Khalifé. 2015. 94 m. NR. Lebanon, Arabic with subtitles.

Wed. Sept 9   7:30 PM

Tickets: $10 (members), $15 (nonmembers)
Theeb

Theeb


This stirring drama is about a young Bedouin boy on a perilous journey to guide a British officer across the desert in 1916 Arabia, when World War I was raging in Europe and the Ottoman Empire was coming undone. Shot entirely on location in the ravishing desert landscape—including at some of the same locations that David Lean used for Lawrence of ArabiaTheeb is turning heads and winning awards on the festival circuit. 

Q&A Theeb writer/producer Bassel Ghandour, director Naji Abu Nowar (via Skype) with series curator Lina Matta.

Naji Abu Nowar. 2014. 100 m. NR. Various Countries, Arabic with subtitles. Film Movement.

Thurs. Sept 10   5:00 PM

Tickets: $7 (members), $12 (nonmembers)
The Beekeeper

The Beekeeper


In the mid-1990s, a Kurd named Ibrahim Gezer was living in Turkey with his family, making a good living producing honey with his 500 bee colonies. But he lost everything in the turmoil of the Turkish-Kurdish war. After living on the run for seven years, he arrived in Switzerland as a refugee. This moving documentary tracks the story of how this good man was able to rebuild his life—with nothing more than his faith in humanity and his love of bees.

Introduction by series curator Lina Matta. A Lebanese-American based in Dubai, Lina Matta is the Senior Channel Manager of the Middle East Broadcast Company (MBC) channels 2, 4, Max, and Variety. She has programmed this series for the JBFC since 2012.   

Mano Khalil. 2013. 107 m. NR. Switzerland, German/Kurdish with subtitles. Frame Film.

Thurs. Sept 10   8:00 PM

A World Not Ours

A World Not Ours


A World Not Ours is an intimate, bittersweet documentary portrait of three generations of exile in Ain el-Helweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Set up in 1948 as a temporary haven, today it is home to more than 70,000 people living in limbo. Filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel, who grew up there and visits every year, presents this sensitive, passionate study of belonging and increasing desperation. A World Not Ours premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and has picked up awards at many international film festivals.

Introduction by series curator Lina Matta. A Lebanese-American based in Dubai, Lina Matta is the Senior Channel Manager of the Middle East Broadcast Company (MBC) channels 2, 4, Max, and Variety. She has programmed this series for the JBFC since 2012.   

Mahdi Fleifel. 2012. 93 m. Luxembourg/UK/Lebanon, Arabic/English.

Fri. Sept 11   5:00 PM

I Am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced

I Am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced


Inspired by the real life story of Nujood Ali, which made international headlines, this wrenching, inspiring film is about a 10-year-old Yemeni girl who was forced to marry a man three times her age—and after enduring a new life of rape and beatings, broke with tradition and took matters into her own hands. US premiere. Best Fiction Film, Dubai International Film Festival.

Q&A filmmaker Khadija al-Salami with series curator Lina Matta. A child bride in her native Yemen, al-Salami escaped that abusive marriage. At 16, she received a scholarship to finish secondary school in the United States and went on to earn a master’s degree at American University. As well as making documentaries, al-Salami is Press and Cultural Attaché and Director of the Yemeni Information Centre at the Embassy of Yemen in Paris.

Khadija Al-Salami. 2014. 96 m. NR. France/UAE/Yemen, Arabic with subtitles. WIDE Management.

Fri. Sept 11   8:00 PM

Tickets: $7 (members), $12 (nonmembers)
From A to B

From A to B


Just days before the birth of his first child—and much to his wife’s dismay—Omar persuades two estranged high school buddies to accompany him on a road trip from Abu Dhabi to Beirut in memory of another friend. Their journey is filled with laughs as well as breakdowns, wrong turns, shady mechanics, and a camel or two. An enjoyable blockbuster inspired by American road movies.

Introduction by series curator Lina Matta. A Lebanese-American based in Dubai, Lina Matta is the Senior Channel Manager of the Middle East Broadcast Company (MBC) channels 2, 4, Max, and Variety. She has programmed this series for the JBFC since 2012.  

Ali F. Mostafa. 2014. 108 m. NR. Various Countries, Arabic/English. Highland Film Group.

Sat. Sept 12   5:00 PM

Excuse My French

Excuse My French


Twelve-year-old Hany tries to fit in at his new public school after his father’s sudden death, which leaves his family unable to afford his private education. Not only is Hany clearly from a more privileged background than the others in his new class, but he is also the only Christian in a room full of Muslims. Based on the filmmaker’s own experience, Excuse My French is a sociopolitical critique wrapped in a family comedy. It was rejected twice by the Egyptian censorship board, which claimed it would provoke Christians and spark a civil war. New York premiere.

Introduction by series curator Lina Matta. A Lebanese-American based in Dubai, Lina Matta is the Senior Channel Manager of the Middle East Broadcast Company (MBC) channels 2, 4, Max, and Variety. She has programmed this series for the JBFC since 2012.  

Amr Salama. 2014. 99 m. NR. Egypt, Arabic with subtitles. FilmRise.

Sun. Sept 13   3:00 PM

The Wanted 18

The Wanted 18


“Highlighting the ridiculous without losing track of the seriousness of all acts of resistance, the film should open minds.” (Variety)

Through a clever mix of stop-motion animation and interviews, The Wanted 18 re-creates an astonishing true story: the Israeli army’s pursuit of 18 cows, whose independent milk production on a Palestinian collective farm had been declared “a threat to the national security of the state.” An enchanting tribute to ingenuity and activism.

Q&A The Wanted 18 co-director Amer Shomali (via Skype) with series curator Lina Matta.

Paul Cowan & Amer Shomali. 2014. 75 m. NR. Various Countries, Various languages with subtitles. Kino Lorber Films.

Sun. Sept 13   6:00 PM

Pirates of Salé

Pirates of Salé


Special Sneak Preview. On Morocco’s old pirate coast, in the city of Salé, hundreds of teenagers audition every year to become students at the Cirque Shems’y, the country’s first professional circus. The circus school sits on the edge of the city’s slums, and represents the one hope for a different future for many of its students. Pirates of Salé follows four young Moroccans on a tough journey of transformation as they learn to live independently, express themselves, challenge convention, and embrace a totally alien concept: artistic freedom. 

with Zaina’s Cake. Zaina is a new college graduate struggling to start her own cake business without her father’s approval. When she meets Ma’an, she has an opportunity to change her life. Set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, this short film was mainly shot in LA with a Saudi cast and mostly Saudi crew. Nada AlMojadedi. 2015. 17 m. NR. Saudi Arabia, in language with subtitles.

Q&A filmmaker Nada AlMojadedi with series curator Lina Matta. A young filmmaker from Makkah, Saudi Arabia, AlMojadedi was born and raised in Jeddah. She worked in video production there before coming to LA to acquire an MFA in filmmaking. Zaina’s Cake is her first short film. 

Rosa Rogers & Merieme Addou. 2014. 79 m. NR. Various Countries, Arabic with subtitles.

Mon. Sept 14   5:30 PM

Tickets: $7 (members), $12 (nonmembers)
The Man from Oran

The Man from Oran


A drama about Algerian independence, seen through the relationship of two friends, Djaffar and Hamid, one a modest idealist, the other a consummate wheeler-dealer. From the heady times of the revolution and the euphoric first years after independence, The Man from Oran is a soul-searching, biting critique of a nation’s psyche, and an exploration of the secrets and betrayals that drive friends apart.

Introduction by series curator Lina Matta. A Lebanese-American based in Dubai, Lina Matta is the Senior Channel Manager of the Middle East Broadcast Company (MBC) channels 2, 4, Max, and Variety. She has programmed this series for the JBFC since 2012.   

Lyès Salem. 2014. 128 m. NR. France/Algeria, Arabic/French. Films Distribution.

Mon. Sept 14   8:00 PM

Timbuktu

Timbuktu


A dazzling, heartbreaking masterpiece, Timbuktu was nominated for an Oscar and has won multiple prizes around the world. It’s a story about the many effects that a regime of terror, led by a group of dogmatic fundamentalists, imposed on a devout, peace-loving community. “In providing audiences a chance to bear witness to unspeakable suffering as well as dazzling defiance and human dignity, Sissako has created a film that’s a privilege to watch,” says the Washington Post. 

Introduction by series curator Lina Matta. A Lebanese-American based in Dubai, Lina Matta is the Senior Channel Manager of the Middle East Broadcast Company (MBC) channels 2, 4, Max, and Variety. She has programmed this series for the JBFC since 2012.   

Abderrahmane Sissako. 2014. 97 m. PG-13. France, Various languages with subtitles. Cohen Media Group.

Tues. Sept 15   5:00 PM

Ghadi

Ghadi


In an insular Lebanese town, the town’s beloved music teacher, Leba, learns that the neighbors are scared of his young son, who has Down syndrome. When they circulate a petition to have the boy institutionalized, Leba jumps into action, concocting a fanciful scheme to convince them that his son is an angel who holds all the answers to their problems. This deft, playful crowd-pleaser was selected to represent Lebanon at the Oscars.

Q&A filmmaker Amin Dora with series curator Lina Matta. Born in Lebanon, Amin Dora received his degree from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, ALBA, where he now teaches. His Arabic web drama series “Shankaboot,” the first of its kind, won him an International Digital Emmy for directing. Dora is known for dry comedy and intimate narrative. Ghadi is his first feature film. 

Amin Dora. 2013. 100 m. NR. Lebanon, Arabic. Fortissimo.

Tues. Sept 15   8:00 PM

Tickets: $7 (members), $12 (nonmembers)