The Arab Film Festival Highlights Voices of the Arab Spring


The 15th Annual Arab Film Festival, one of the fastest growing festivals of Arab Cinema in the US, completes its four-city run in Los Angeles, October 21st-23rd at the Writers Guild of America Theater, in Beverly Hills. The co-ordinated protests and uprisings of the Arab Spring have toppled three governments and represent a Global sea change of unknown proportions. Celebrate this historic moment of hope in a environment of film culture at the 15th Annual Arab Film Festival.

Featuring a broad selection of films that tell stories of romance, humor and unrest in the Middle East, the LA Festival kicks off October
21 at 6:30 pm with a cocktail and mezze reception, followed by the Centerpiece screening of “Egyptian Maidens”. Set against the backdrop of an Egypt on the brink of revolution, Mohamad Amin’s “Egyptian Maidens”, follows two unmarried women as they navigate the clash between traditional values and their emerging sense of independence, in a country also seeking to carve out a new path.

Other highlights include the award winning “Hawi”, by Egyptian filmmaker Ibrahim El Batout, and “Majid”, by Moroccan filmmaker Nassim Abassi. “Hawi”, which won Best Arab Film at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, follows the story of a prisoner released after five years of solitary confinement into city populated by strange and often desperate characters. “Majid,” winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the Moroccan National Film Festival, is a coming of age story about a ten-year-old orphan’s quest to find a photograph of his dead parents.

“In light of the Arab Spring and due to the meteoric advancement of Arab film-making we’re seeing an increasingly expanding American audience,” said Michel Shehadah, Executive Director for the Festival. “By highlighting the struggles of ordinary people living under oppressive regimes, the filmmakers provide a backdrop for the extraordinary events that we have seen play out in the past year.”

The Festival, which takes place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Jose throughout October, features works from both emerging and established directors and includes comedies, family-oriented films, epics, political bio-pics, thrillers and documentaries. Filmmakers in attendance include Zaid Abu Hamdan (“Bahiya and Mahmoud”), Nassim Abassi (“Majid”), Shakir Abal (“Richard III “An Arab VIP””) and Rolla Selbak (“Three Veils”). Complete Film listings available at

Scheduled Screenings:
Friday, October 21st -Writers Guild of America Theater
6:30 pm
Cocktail and mezze reception,

8:00 pm
“Egyptian Maidens”
Dir-Mohamed Amin
Feature Film | Egypt | 2010 | 130 min.
Unmarried cousins Hanan and Dalia are facing a huge dilemma on the verge of their 30th birthdays: how to still find a husband at their age. They experience the clash between predominating traditional views on female dignity and their own emotional needs. In a male dominated society like Egypt, marriage is still the most important precondition for women to gain respect, a certain amount of personal freedom and the right to explore their sexuality. In order to get these rights, they have to comply with a rigid set of values. However, the reward is not always guaranteed.

Saturday, October 22nd- Writers Guild of America Theater
11:00 am
“Richard III “An Arab VIP” “/ “Short Life”
Dir-Shakir Abal & Tim Langford
Documentary | Kuwait | 2010 | 70 min.
The camera follows a touring Arab production of Shakespeare’s eponymous play Richard III as it moves from rehearsals in the oil-rich Arabian Gulf State of Kuwait to the charged atmosphere of a U.S. premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and on to the United Arab Emirates for a command performance at the behest of local princesses. In between, the cast and crew gather in various cities across the Arab world. The process of breathing life into their fictional characters takes shape in a way that reflects the politics and turmoil that surrounds them.

“Courte Vie” (“Short Life”)
Dir-Adil El Fadili
Short Film | Morocco | 2010 | 16 min.
The surreal adventures of Zhar (The Lucky One), from childhood to adulthood frame events that have marked the history of Morocco and the world. Hit by a curse from birth, he never loses hope of a better life.
10/22 11:00 am – Buy Tickets
Writers Guild of America Theater, Los Angeles
Print Source:

1:00 pm 
“Stray Bullet”/ “Grandma, A Thousand Times”

“Rsasa Tayche” (“Stray Bullet”)
Dir-Georges Hachem
Feature Film | Lebanon | 2010 | 75 min.
Lebanon, August 1976. Noha is about to enter into a marriage with a man she doesn’t love. Her family is relieved to see her take advantage of this last chance before officially becoming a spinster just like her sister. While her overbearing family clucks around making wedding preparations, Noha sneaks off to the woods with her lover, where she witnesses a brutal act that changes her perception of the world forever.On the same evening her elder brother is organizing a dinner in her honor 15 days prior to the wedding, Noha changes her mind.

“Teta, Alf Marra” (“Grandma, A Thousand Times”)
Dir-Mahmoud Kaabour
Documentary | UAE, Qatar, Lebanon | 2010 | 48 min.
A poetic, playful documentary commemorating a feisty Beiruti grandmother’s many worlds before they are erased by the passage of time and her eventual death. With great intimacy, the film documents Teta Fatima, the 83-year old matriarch of the Kaabour family –sharp-witted queen bee of an old Beiruti quarter — as she struggles to cope with the silence of her once-buzzing house. Her beloved violinist husband (deceased 20 years) is both an essential absence and presence. His features manifest through the face of their filmmaker grandson while his previously unpublished violin improvisations weave through her world and that of the film.

Dir-Nassim Abassi
Feature Film | Morocco | 2010 | 116 min.
A coming of age story of a ten-year-old Moroccan orphan named Majid. Following recurrent nightmares, he discovers that he can’t remember his parents’ faces anymore and that there are no photographs of them apart from the charred remains of a family photo with his parents’ heads burnt away. With the help of his new young friend Larbi, Majid decides to go on a quest to find a photograph of his dead parents. It’s a journey that will take them to the big city of Casablanca where danger and adventure await them.

“The Kingdom of Women: Ein El Hilweh” / “Transit Cities”
“Mamlakit Al Nisa’a Ein El Hilweh” (“The Kingdom of Women: Ein El Hilweh”)
Dir-Dahna Abourahme
Documentary | Lebanon | 2011 | 54 min.
The story of the women of Ein El Hilweh refugee camp between 1982-1984 is an important chapter in the history of Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the camp was destroyed and its men imprisoned. Weaving between past and present, animation and daily life, it documents the community and organizing spirit of the women during this period, how they were able to rebuild the camp, protect and provide for their families while their men were held captive, and honors how women continue to contribute to the survival of the Palestinian community in exile.

“Transit Cities” (مدن ترانزيت)
Dir-Mohammad Hushki
Feature Film | Jordan | 2010 | 71 min.
Laila, a thirty something year old woman who is running away from a life of disconnection and emptiness abroad simply wants her old world back in Amman, Jordan, yet 14 years changed everything. Unannounced and uninvited Laila attempts to construct a new life, but her simple old town is now a complex entity, a city that is being torn apart by forces of religion from the right and globalization from the left. Can she survive in this new city…or will she have to go back where she came from? Yet if home is not there nor here, where is it?

“Messages from the Sea”
Dir-Daoud Abdel Sayed
Feature Film | Egypt | 2010 | 133 min.
A stunningly beautiful meditation on existence, memory, love and social disintegration, the story follows a medical student painfully self-conscious about his speech impediment, returning to his native city of Alexandria following the death of his mother. Becoming a fisherman, he befriends a bodyguard, reunites with his lover from youth and falls in love with a prostitute. He witnesses the drastic changes in society which was once home to a multi-cultural society of Egyptians, Greeks, Italians, Christians, Muslims and Jews. But now, a new form of Islamic driven capitalism is transforming the city into a mono-culture that ignores this past, rich complexity.

“Flowers of Evil”
Dir-David Dusa
Feature Film | France | 2010 | 98 min.
An attraction blooms when footloose hotel clerk Rachid meets Anahita, a Tehrani college student exiled to Paris by her parents. Capturing the energy of social media in an innovative and powerfully visceral way, Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations and the government’s brutal reprisals captured on YouTube are incorporated into a tender love story. Anahita worries over the rapidly unfolding events in Iran, which she follows obsessively on her computer and smartphone. The apolitical Rachid’s knowledge of Iran is shaped through footage and his lover’s response to it. Torn between guilt and feelings of isolation living outside her homeland, Anahita must choose.

Sunday,October 23rd- Writers Guild of America Theater
11:00 am
Iraq: War, Love, God & Madness / Beep / Aayesh

“Iraq: War, Love, God & Madness”
Dir-Mohamed Al-Daradji
Documentary | Iraq, UK, Netherlands | 2008 | 83 min.
While visiting Iraq in 2007 for the premiere of his first feature film, Ahlaam, director Mohamed Al-Daradji looks back over the turbulent past three years of his life and the making of his film in a volatile war zone. The Iraq he had once known had vanished, replaced by the gritty aftermath of 35 years of dictatorship, three wars, and occupation. Once vibrant streets are consumed by unemployment, poverty, and madness. Al-Daradji struggles against persecution, imprisonment, personal injury, and terrorist attacks to document his experience of making cinematic art in one of the most dangerous and chaotic places on Earth.

Dir-Haytham Saqr
Short Film | United Arab Emirates | 2011 | 5 min.
Mr. K – modern life’s common man – transits between home, work, and the mall, a life wasted on machines designed to provide easy living. A daily routine punctuated by an endless number of digits and beeps – is this the total sum of living?

Dir-Abdullah Al-Eyaf
Short Film | Saudi Arabia | 2010 | 28 min.
Aayesh is a middle-aged man working as a morgue security guard in a big hospital. It is a mundane, lonely life – but then, one day, his daily routine abruptly changes for ten minutes. This brief interval serves to radically alter the course of Aayesh’s life.

1:00 pm
Here Comes the Rain / Bahiya…& Mahmoud

“Chatti ya dini” (“Here Comes the Rain”)
Dir-Bahij Hojeij
Feature Film | Lebanon | 2010 | 97 min.
Like thousands kidnapped during the Lebanese civil war, Ramez, a physically and morally devastated man, returns after 20 years, destabilizing his typical Lebanese family who knew nothing about what had become of him: a daughter who studies at the music conservatory, a son who works and parties with friends, and a wife who has dedicated her life to her children. At times Ramez imagines he is being followed by his former jailers. Hiding in Zeinab’s building in an almost comatose-like state, a friendship is born when she invites him in and shows him pictures of her husband, also kidnapped and still missing.

Bahiya…& Mahmoud (بـهـيـة… و مـحـمـود)
Zaid Abu Hamdan
Short Film | Lebanon | 2010 | 14 min.
9:30 am marks the beginning of a long term daily routine and yet another unbearable day in the life of Mahmoud and Bahiya. A couple in their later years living alone together, they constantly bicker and endure a seemingly loveless and tough marriage. They simply can’t stand each other. It’s not until one day Mahmoud awakes to a quiet peaceful morning and the terrifying realization that Bahiya disappeared!

3:00 pm
The Ring Road / The Last Passenger

“Al-Tariq Al-Da’ery” (“The Ring Road”)
Dir-Tamer Ezzat
Feature Film | Egypt | 2010 | 98 min.
In a country where corruption has reached epidemic levels and human life has become virtually worthless, an investigative journalist tries to reveal the corruption of a medical mogul whose products caused the death of 20 patients. His search for the truth is not out of pure idealistic motives. Essam has a daughter who has kidney failure and has been affected by the corrupt filters. In a stale marriage caused by the daughter’s sickness, Essam finds himself lured by an attractive seductress. He faces a deep moral question: should he become corrupt himself in order to save his daughter’s life?

‘Le dernier passager” (“The Last Passenger”)
Dir-Mounes Khammar
Short Film | Algeria | 2010 | 7 min.
A young man jumps from a cliff. Before leaving forever, his soul pays a visit to his two impossible loves: a woman and the stage of a concert hall.

5:00 pm
Dir-Ibrahim El Batout
Feature Film | Egypt | 2010 | 112 min.
Inspired by the alternative cinema of Goddard, Vertov and Kiarostami, the story follows the journey of Youssef, a prisoner released after five years of solitary confinement in order to fetch a sheath of important documents, with a number of seemingly unconnected subplots concerning a group of aspiring songwriters, a satellite TV executive searching for a show host, an elderly juggler leading his sickly old horse through the city streets, and so on. What might have been a straight-ahead story with predictable scenes becomes an organic study of Alexandria, a closer view of so-called reality a

7:00 pm
“Three Veils” / “Habibti”

“Three Veils”
Dir-Rolla Selbak
Feature Film | USA | 2011 | 117 min.
Set in the US, the lives of three Middle Eastern women intertwine as they struggle to defy tradition and create their own realities. Leila is the stable “girl next door” anticipating what her wedding night will be like. Her sexy, free-spirited friend Nikki is the life of every party but she’s hiding from a dark past. Amira is a shy, religious girl with a rigid, uncompromising mother. Conflicted, her strict upbringing clashes with her seemingly inexplicable desire to be around Nikki all the time. From an arranged marriage and a lesbian love affair to an abusive family situation, the film daringly tackles contemporary issues.

Dir-Nour Wazzi
Short Film | United Kingdom | 2010 | 16 min.
Iman, a woman steeped in tradition, journeys to London to visit her estranged daughter Amira only to find her living with her artist boyfriend. Iman tries her best to bite her tongue but she has no idea how to handle Marlon and soon they end up clashing. As the dust settles an unlikely friendship develops between them, and we discover Iman’s reasons for visiting are more than they seem.

The Festival will take place at Writer’s Guild Theatre, located at 135 South Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills Ca. 90211. All tickets can be purchased online at or the day of the showing. (no reservations and tickets may sell out)

October 21st -23rd
Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills
135 South Doheny Drive
Beverly Hills, CA, 90211

Screenings:    $12
 Students/Seniors: $10
Centerpiece:    $20 (includes cocktails and mezze reception and Egyptian Maidens screening)
LA All Access Pass: $80
Student All Access Pass: $35



About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

Leave A Reply