The 6th Annual Arab Film Festival


The Arab Film Festival (AFF) is multi city festival dedicated to to enhancing public understanding of Arab culture and to providing alternative representations of Arabs that contradict the stereotypical images frequently encountered in the American mass media. The Arab Film Festival screens films from and about the Arab World that provide realistic perspectives on Arab people, culture, art, history and politics. The West Coast festival plays in San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles. For information about the entire five city slate go to

A highlight of the San Francisco edition is the screening of Mohamed Lakhdar-Hamina’s “Chronicle of the Years of Embers” ( A.K.A ““Chronicle of the Years of Fire”.) In 1975, this lyrical, epic account of the events that led to the Algerian war of liberation from France was the first film from North Africa and the Arab world to be awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Largely unknown, the film is viewed by film historians as a prequel or companion piece to Pontecorvo’s “Battle Of Algiers. Shot in Cinemascope by Portocorvo’s frequent DP Marcello Gatti, the film follows an Algerian peasant fighting alongside the Allied forces in World War II. Returning home he joins the resistance against French colonial rule, and dies valiantly in battle. His son continues the struggle.  The film ends on November 11, 1954, the official outbreak of the war for liberation. 2012 is the 50th Anniversary of Algeria’s Independence. Lakhdar Hamina (“December”) a spiritual forefather to Rashid Bouchareb, (“Days of Glory”and “Hors La Loie”) plays the madman narrator.

Friday October 19th Writers Guild of America Theater
Centerpiece Event  $25
6:30pm Reception with VIP guests
8:00pm Centerpiece film: Man Without A Cell Phone

“Man Without a Cell Phone” Dir: Sameh Zoabi
Feature Film | Palestine, Belgium, France, Qatar | 2011 | 78 min.
Twenty-something Palestinian-Israeli slacker Jawdat just wants to have fun with his friends, talk on his cell phone and find love. Instead, he navigates unconvincing dates with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish girls, and wrestles with the Hebrew college entrance exam.
Meanwhile, his curmudgeonly olive-farming father, Salem, is determined to drag Jawdat and his whole community into a fight against a nearby Israeli cell phone tower he fears is poisoning the villagers with radiation.
As Salem’s efforts to remove the tower disrupt Jawdat’s precious cell phone reception and communication with his potential girlfriends, Jawdat is forced to face the battle and grow up.

Saturday October 20th Writers Guild of America Theater

 The Suffering Grasses / Yamo
The Suffering Grasses” Dir;Iara Lee
Documentary | Turkey, Syria | 2012 | 52 min.
Against the backdrop of the Arab Spring and the complicated politics of the region, this documentary seeks to explore the Syrian conflict through the humanity of the civilians who have been killed, abused, and displaced to refugee camps. While focusing on the plight of those caught in the crossfire of the hegemons, this film explores the motivations of its actors—the Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Free Syrian Army and other geopolitical players like the US, Israel, Russia, China, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, the Gulf countries… When elephants go to war, it is the grass that suffers. WEST COAST PREMIERE.
Co-presented by

“Yamo” Dir- Rami Nihawi
Documentary | Lebanon | 2011 | 70 min.
The complexities of personal memory, silence and Lebanon are drawn out by way of Rami Nihawi’s affecting film, Yamo. Situated beside recollections of the filmmaker’s mother, Nawal, the boundaries between personal history and national history become increasingly blurred as questions of family memory and ‘what happened’ post-1975 are explored. At times a participatory documentary donned with voice-over and interviews, at others, an experimental non-linear venture into a dream-like account of Nihawi’s (and Lebanon’s) past, Yamo captures what it means to remember, to recollect – and the process of forgetting that cannot be divorced from the remembered event.
Co-presented by: Lebanese American Foundation-House of Lebanon

1:15pm The War Around Us / More Than Smoke / Here

The War Around Us Dir: Abdallah Salem Omeish
Documentary | USA, Palestine | 2012 | 75 min.    In 2008 two best friends found themselves trapped in one of the most dangerous places on earth – the only western journalists in the Gaza Strip on what was supposed to be a 24‐hour assignment.
The War Around Us captures the collision of veteran war correspondent and one of TIME’s most 100 influential people, Ayman Mohyeldin, with rookie reporter Sherine Tadros. As missiles shower the city and unspeakable atrocities emerge, the pair are torn by fierce professional rivalry,private terror and grim humor – with no way out and the whole world watching. Winner of Best Documentary, Newport Beach Film Festival.Co‐presented by Arab Cultural and Community Center (ACCC) (, and by Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) (
More Than SmokeReem Munir Katami
Short Film | Jordan | 2011 | 2 min.In 2008 two best friends found themselves trapped in one of the most dangerous places on earth – the only western journalists in the Gaza Strip on what was supposed to be a 24‐hour assignment.
Reem Munir Katami
Short Film | Jordan | 2012 | 2 min. In a barbaric political regime, who is the real prisoner – the guard who reinforces the policies of the oppressor, or the one behind bars? Through the dialogue between the two, this animated short film examines the advocate for the right of civilians to demonstrate peacefully and nonviolently for basic human rights versus the enforcer.
3:15pm Pegasus  Dir:Mohamed Mouftakir
Feature Film | Morocco | 2010 | 104 min.
Zineb is an emotionally exhausted psychiatrist assigned to Rihana, a traumatized and pregnant young woman found in the street muttering unintelligibly about “The Lord of the Horse.” A flashback sequence returns us to Rihana’s childhood, where her dictatorial father, horseman chief of his tribe, raises her as the son his legacy demands. Trapped in parental delusions, Rihana falls in love with a young man with whom she carves out the beginnings of her own life. Soon, Rihana’s story awakens repressed thoughts in Zineb’s own troubled mind, and reality merges into a haunted fever‐dream of fear and denial in this visually striking, award‐winning psychological thriller. Pegasus is co‐presented by the Global Film Initiative and is part of the Global Lens 2012 film series. For more information, visit

5:15pm Lust Dir:Khaled El Hagar
Feature Film | Egypt | 2011 | 135 min.
Lust brings us into the lives of a marginalized street’s inhabitants in pre‐revolution Alexandria, each character isolated in their fierce, yet fragile dreams. Driven by desperation and no means to save her dying young son, Um Shooq leaves her family to beseech estranged relatives for help, only to abandon that plan in lieu of an unthinkable one. Consequences of misguided choices ripple throughout the lives centered around a woman whose sense of shame and inadequacy drive her to gain leverage over her family and neighbors. Best film, 34th Cairo International Film Festival, 84th Academy Awards Foreign Language Film submission from Egypt. Co‐Presented by Egyptian Film Center (Egyptian Ministry of Culture)

7:45pm  Death for Sale Dir: Faouzi Bensaïdi
Feature Film | Belgium, France, Morocco | 2011 | 117 min.
Tetouan, a Moroccan port city permanently under a low, heavy sky. Three friends, small time crooks, plan a robbery to escape from a hopeless future. Malik, unemployed and madly in love with Dounia, is in on the heist to create a new life for them. Allal is the tough guy needing cash to be a player in the local drug trade. Soufiane is the youngest, drifting out of school and looking for direction. When the plan falls apart, the three friends must face their own, separate destinies, alone. Osian’s Cinefan Best Director Asian and Arab Competition, Berlinale CICAE Panorama Award. Mature audiences.
Co-Presented by Levantine Cultural Center (, and by the French Film and TV Office ( )

SUNDAY OCT 21  Writers Guild of America Theater

My Name Is Not Ali / The Green Line
“My Name Is Not Ali”  Dir:Viola Shafik
Documentary | Egypt, Germany | 2011 | 94 min.
His anti-racist film “Ali – Fear Eats Soul” (1973) gained German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder international acclaim. The protagonist, an Arab foreign worker, was played by Moroccan El Hedi Ben Salem M’barek Mohammed Mustafa, Fassbinder’s lover at that time. Collage-like, through interviews of his colleagues, family and archive material, the film courageously deals with the racism of post-war German society, the complexity of the real El Hedi Ben Salem – victim vs ambivalent aggressor – and the invention by the Fassbinder troupe, an image not revised by most of its members till today.
Co-presented by Frameline (;; Helem – San Francisco chapter; Southwest Asian and North African Bay Area Queers (SWANABAQ)

Roadmap to Apartheid  Dir: Ana Nogueira and Eron Davidson
Documentary | USA | 2012 | 94 min.
Narrated by The Color Purple author Alice Walker, this film is as much a historical document comparing the many similar laws and tools used by both Israel and apartheid-era South Africa as it is a documentary about why many Palestinians feel they are living in an apartheid system today, and why an increasing number of people around the world agree with them. The filmmakers explore the apartheid analogy as a useful framework by which to educate people on the complex issues facing Israelis and Palestinians.
Co-presented by the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) (

I Wish We Were Dancers / Rough Hands

I Wish We Were Dancers
Mohammed Walid Ayyad  Dir: Kuwait | 2011 | 9 min.
Confined to a wheelchair from multiple sclerosis, a girl creates a vivid dream world in which she vibrantly dances as a ballerina. This lyrical Kuwaiti short is an official selection of the Dubai International Film Festival 2011 and Gulf Film Festival 2012.

Rough Hands Dir: Mohamed Asli
Feature Film | Morocco | 2011 | 97 min.
Mustapha is a forty-year-old barber in Casablanca. His clients are retired high-ranking government officials and power brokers. On the side, Mustapha has an underground business “facilitating” paperwork, using his privileged access to grease the wheels of bureaucracy. Zakia is a thirty-year-old schoolteacher whose fiancé has immigrated to Spain. Longing to join him, she asks Mustapha to forge her papers and an unexpected destiny awaits. Populated by characters who must bend the system to get by, Mohamed Asli’s follow-up to his acclaimed debut In Casablanca, Angels Don’t Fly is a bold indictment of the type of society produced by a corrupt police state. West Coast Premiere.

4:30pm Top Floor, Left Wing  Dir:Angelo Cianci
Feature Film | France, Luxembourg | 2010 | 110 min.
François, a forty-something bailiff, is about to execute his daily eviction. But fate takes an unexpected turn: as he enters the apartment, he is mistakenly taken hostage by an amateur drug dealer and his father. Keen to resolve this situation quickly and quietly, the local deputy calls in the Special Police Force. Television crews immediately rush in for the scoop. Under crossfire from snipers, hungry cameramen, a curious crowd, and François’ exasperated wife, the three trapped men prepare their escape. Their only option: use the neighborhood’s discontentment and start a riot… Catch Lyes Salem (AFF 2010, Masquerades’ director) in this sociopolitical satire.
 Co-presented by Alliance Française de San Francisco (www

6:30pm  Teta / The Virgin, The Copts, and Me

“Teta” Dir:Merva Faddoul
Short Film | Lebanon | 2011 | 24 min.
Abandoned by both parents and left with her little sister in their grandmother’s care, Sarah is like her teenage friends, wanting time and freedom to hangout, but generational tension erupts between her and Teta. Set in Byblos, an historic town in Lebanon with a prominent Maronite Christian community, a family’s life is turned upside down when their iconic Virgin Mary statue sheds tears.

“The Virgin, The Copts, and Me ” Dir:Namir Abdel Messeeh
Documentary | France, Qatar | 2012 | 94 min.
Namir is a French filmmaker whose Coptic Christian parents moved to France in 1973. One day he watches a video of the Virgin Mary’s apparition with his mother who, like millions of other Copts, sees the Virgin while he sees nothing. Skeptical, Namir travels to Egypt, interviewing Christian and Muslim witnesses claiming to see the 1968 apparition. Comedic moments abound from his French producer’s exasperation as Namir veers from the prescribed documentary about inter-faith violence, to wrangling with his mother, a skeptic herself about his ability to not produce another failure, “just like your last.” Best Arab Documentary 2011 Doha Tribeca Film Festival.
Co-presented by Golden Thread Productions (, Alliance Française de San Francisco (, TV5MONDE (, and the French Film and TV Office (

8:30pm Qarantina  Dir: Oday Rasheed
Feature Film | Iraq | 2010 | 90 min.
A broken family lives uneasily within the gated courtyard of a dilapidated Baghdad house. The pregnant daughter has fallen silent, finding some protection from the patriarch’s young second wife and his preteen son. Meanwhile, hard up for money, the household must live with a sullen and imperious boarder, a contract killer. In such a house, though, it may be that freedom and safety actually lie beyond the gates. Iraqi filmmaker Oday Rasheed’s second feature gorgeously captures contemporary Baghdad’s moody interior and stunned atmosphere, echoed in performances by a formidable cast who suggest unexpected resilience in the wake of catastrophe.
Co-presented by San Francisco Film Society (

For more information , or to buy tickets  go to


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