The 17th Annual Arab Film Festival


Considered one of the most important Arab film festivals outside the Arab world, The Arab Film Festival is the largest independent annual showcase of Arab films and filmmakers in the country. Founded in 1996, The Arab Film Festival shows films in five California cities: San Francisco, Los Angles, Berkeley, Oakland and San Diego.

Festival Dates: San Francisco October 11-13, 2013
Opening Night: October 11, 2013 at the Castro Theatre
Other venues-Opera Plaza Cinema (San Francisco)

Los Angeles-October 18-20, 2013
Opening Night: October 18, 2013 at the Writer’s Guild of America

Berkeley-October 25-27, 2013
Shattuck Cinemas (Berkeley)

San Diego- November 15-17, 2013
Museum of Photographic Arts (San Diego)
(co-sponsored with Karama)

Oakland -October 24 & Nov 7, 2013
The New Parkway (Oakland)

Festival Dates: San Francisco  October 11-13, 2013
Opening Night: Friday, October 11, 2013 at the Castro Theatre

Los Angeles Schedule
Friday, October 18-Harmony Gold (Los Angeles)
11:30 am   Imago / The Cup Reader 
Imago 48 mins
Elena and Lucas are a happy couple with their son Hugo. Elena has a very coherent imaginary world where she goes to feel safe and meet two friends: Leslie and an old ludicrous and crazy man. She only shares this secret with her husband. One day, Elena is sent to a psychiatrist who tells her that the latter revealed the existence of her world. It puts her in a delicate situation for the custody of Hugo in the divorce Lucas has started. Her life is shattered: the more she talks about her world, the more frightening it gets. She starts suspecting everyone and sinks into paranoia. At the same time, Hugo who is concerned about his mother gets closer to Lucas. Trying to find a solution at all costs, what will she be willing to do to save her imaginary world and get the custody of her son?
Suha Araj, Writer & Director

1:00 pm The Last Stop (A Última Estação)
Marcio Curi / Narrative / Brazil, Lebanon / 2012 / 114 mins / Arabic, Portuguese with English subtitles
June 1950: Still teenagers, the Lebanese, Tarik and his younger brother, Karim, left Lebanon and came to Brazil, in search for a better life. On the ship, they make friendship with other Lebanese and Syrian teenagers. Upon arrival in Brazil, each one goes his way and the years pass through… September 2001: The old Muslim Tarik loses his wife and, before dies, needs to fulfill some promises. Tarik leaves everything and crosses Brazil, together with his daughter Samia, in search of the boys who came with him from Lebanon, 51 years before. Each stop on this long journey will reveal a fabulous truth of more than 1001 nights.
Cinematographer: Krishna Schmidt
Producer: Elizabeth Curi
Editor: Dirceu Lustosa
Music: Patrick de Jongh
Screenwriter: Di Moretti

3:30 pm Casablanca Mon Amour
Narrative / Morocco/ USA / 2012 / 77 MINS
Casablanca Mon Amour is a modern road movie that encapsulates the more complex and fractured nature of living in a world where TV and wars compete for headlines and occupy imaginations. Using movies as a road map between yesterday’s Hollywood and today’s Morocco, Casablanca Mon Amour offers a Moroccan perspective on the long and entwined relationship between Hollywood and The Arab/Muslim World. Casablanca Mon Amour offers more than a dry critique of the impact of media on culture. Instead, the film takes a human and humorous look at the effects Hollywood films have on people’s imaginations and affords Moroccan’s (our movie set ‘extras’) an opportunity to talk back—which they do in intelligent, witty and wildly ingenious ways. Casablanca Mon Amour uses the process of movie making as a way of turning the Great American Story on its head – and offering Hollywood and America a story about itself.
Cinematographer: Fara Akrami
Producer/Screenwriter: John Slattery
Editor: Michael Nouryeh
Music: Malhun of Meknes

6:30 pm Harmony Gold (Los Angeles)
Spotlight Los Angeles Reception
Come get the festival started in LA with our top supporters and guest filmmakers. A VIP ticket or VIP pass is required.

8:00 pm
Spotlight Ceremony and Film: When Monaliza Smiled
When Monaliza Smiled
Grumpy Monaliza, in her 30s, rarely smiles. She works in a government office, where she meets Hamdi, an affable Egyptian tea boy. Together they dream of a life straight out of the romantic movies of yesteryears, with Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama… Their fantasy is challenged as they’re surrounded by inquistive individuals, who impose restrictions typical of Amman’s society.
Monaliza, a 37-year-old Jordanian woman unable to draw a smile, grew up with her grumpy, older, unmarried, agoraphobic sister, Afaf. After a 10 years wait, Monaliza finally gets a job in an archaic government department where she meets Hamdi, the jolly Egyptian tea guy. On her journey of transformation, Monaliza is confronted by a community of nosy and quirky stereotypes from the heart of the colorful city, Amman.
Cinematography: Samer Nimri
Producer: Nadia Eliewat
Editor: Fadi G. Haddad
Music: Dr. Najati Al Suloh
Screenwriter: Fadi G. Haddad

Saturday October 19  Harmony Gold (Los Angeles)
11:30 am  Asfouri
Fouad Alaywan / Documentary / Lebanon, UAE / 2012 / 90 mins / Arabic with English subtitles / US
It’s Beirut in the 1970s. Karim, a young boy lives with his family in the Sanayeh district of the city. Their building, built by his grandfather Abu Afif in the 1920s, faces one of Beirut’s rare green spots, Sanayeh Gardens. The building has been divided into several apartments, and its other residents come from different religious backgrounds and all live together in the harmony of daily life.
Cinematographer: Philipe Van Leeuw, Renato Berta
Producer: Rosy Abdo
Music: Vatche Kalenderian
Screenwriter: Fouad Alaywan

2:00 pm
Detroit Unleaded
Rola Nashef / Narrative / USA / 2012 / 92 mins
Between Detroit and Arab-America, Sami works behind the bulletproof glass of a 24-hour gas station with his cousin Mike. Inside this unique neighborhood, the station is more than just a pitstop for rolling papers and fake perfume, but a place where an infinite stream of spirited and often hilarious people flow through. When Najlah walks in, Sami//’s shift becomes anything but routine.
Cinematographer: Keir Yee
Producers: Rola Nashef and Leon Toomey
Editor: Nathanael Sherfield
Music: Joe Namy

4:30 pm  The Lebanese Rocket Society
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige / Documentary / France, Lebanon, Qatar / 2012 / 95 mins / English / US Premiere
In the early 60′s, during the cold war and the apex of Pan Arabism, a group of utopian students and researchers enters the race to space and create the Lebanese Rocket Society. Sometimes, and specially nowadays, dreams can overtake a tormented history.
Cinematographer: Jeanne Lapoirie
Producer: George Shoucair (Mille et Une)
Editor: Tina Baz
Music: Nadim Mishlawi, Scrambled Eggs, Disciplinep
6:30 Pm They Were Promised the Sea
Kathy Wazana / Documentary / Canada / 2012 / 72 mins / English / US Premiere
They Were Promised the Sea is the story of the complexity of Arab Jewish identity. The film is a stunning visual, lyrical and musical meditation on loss and longing, hope and the possibilities of coexistence. Informed by the director’s family history, the film investigates the circumstances surrounding the mass migration of Jews from Morocco, an exodus inextricably linked to the dispossession and exile of the Palestinian people. Startling interviews with witnesses to the evacuation campaign orchestrated by Israel, and Jewish Moroccans who chose to stay as well as some who left, challenge the commonly-held belief that Jews were expelled or forced to leave Morocco. Live-performance recordings of Andalusian and Sephardic music in Arabic, Ladino and Hebrew, thread the subjects’ storylines and reveal a little-known history of a people who resisted the separation of Arab and Jew, and a country still grieving the loss of its Jewish population.
Cinematographer: Ali Kazimi, Zoe Dirse, Martin Duckworth, Natasha Dudinski, Richard Fung, Kathy Wazana
Producer: Kathy Wazana
Editor: Ricardo Acosta, Gary Popovitch, Kimberley Hassett
Music: Françoise Atlant, Abderrahim Abdelmoumen, Rabbi Haïm Louk, Si Thami Harrak, Jojo Ohayon 

9 pm  Blind Intersections
Ossit Sawani
Lara Saba / Narrative / Lebanon / 2013 / 92 mins / Arabic with English subtitles / US Premiere
Three protagonists in one city. Coming from different backgrounds they pass each other but they never meet; although, the effect of one incident will drastically alter the lives of the three of them! Nour looses her parents in a car accident and all her life collapses while India has everything a woman can dream of except for a baby Marwan is 12 years old and lives with a violent and abusive mother. All three characters are caught at a moment when their lives fall over, in just a matter of seconds each is knocked down by a chain of other’s actions/reactions.
Cinematographer: Michael Lagerwey
Producer: Nibal Arakji
Music: Raed el Khazen
Screenwriter: Nibal Arakji

Sunday, October 20 Harmony Gold
12:00 pm Asham: A Man Called Hope
Maggir Morgan / Egypt / Other / 87 mins / US Premiere
Asham is a film in the style of Coffee and Cigarettes and Nine Lives. Six intertwined stories about aspiration, disappointment, and hope are tied together loosely through the character of Asham who encounters the characters at critical points in their lives. The stories take place against the backdrop of a restless Cairo before the January 25 revolution. The city is troubled: traffic is gridlocked, a man threatens to throw himself off a building to protest government injustice, street peddlers are harassed by the police. The tension is palpable.
Producer: Film Clinic

2:00 pm
Mars at Sunrise
Jessica Habie / Narrative / Palestine / 2012 / 75 mins / US Premiere
Mars At Sunrise tells the story of a war waged on imagination. The film abstractly portrays the conflict between artists on either side of Israel’s militarized borders, and explores how a powerful creative mind survives, and even thrives, under pressure.
Cinematographer: Xavi Jose
Producer: Baher Agarabiya
Editor: Luis Carballar, Osnat and Erez
Music: Tamir Muskat of Balkan Beat Box
Screenwriter: Jessica Habie

4:30 pm Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine
Connie Field / Documentary / USA / 2013 / 93 mins / Arabic, English
Martin Luther King’s dream of justice, equality and nonviolence comes to the West Bank in the form of a play by Stanford professor Clay Carson. The parallels seem clear, but the collaboration between a group of African American gospel singers and the Palestinian National Theater hits its first snag when director Kamel El Basha changes the play to make it more accessible to Palestinian audiences. In a compelling and emotional documentary, award-winning director Connie Field (Have You Heard from Johannesburg?, MVFF 2006; Freedom on My Mind, MVFF 1994) captures the eye-opening experiences of the choir as its members witness the open wound of the Palestinian struggle. Along the way, the actors perform at the Freedom Theatre and encounter its charismatic founder, Israeli-Palestinian actor, director and film- maker Juliano Mer Khamis (Arna’s Children, MVFF 2005). Even as young Palestinians follow their Egyptian and Tunisian counter- parts in an incipient nonviolent movement, the Americans witness tragedy as they and their fellow artists come to understand each other’s struggles.

Director’s Bio
Academy Award–nominated and Emmy Award–winning documentary filmmaker Connie Field’s works include Freedom on My Mind (1994), a history of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, which won the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival; The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (1981), which is listed in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress; and Have You Heard from Johannesburg (2010), a seven-part history of the global anti-apartheid movement.

7:00 pm Tannoura Maxi
Joe Bou Eid / Narrative / Lebanon, UAE / 2012 / 95 mins / Arabic with English subtitles / US Premiere
In the summer of 1982, in a sheltered village protected by its armed men, it took no longer than three months until radical changes started occurring in the lives of two families of different backgrounds. A priest about to be ordered, is exhausted by temptations and an arrogant girl comes from the outside world, and penetrates the village, taking away the community’s virginity. The little refugee girl becomes the refuge of a man, about to undertake in a mission of life. The one supposed to marry, will be married; the one supposed to serve, will be served. A shredded memory and an intimate story of a narrator who tells the meeting of his parents, before his existence, until their marriage…
Cinematographer: Mounah Saliba
Producer: Naftaleen Entertainment
Editor: Elias Chaheen
Music: Mike Massy

About The Arab FIlm Festival
AFF strives to present the best contemporary films that provide insight into the beauty, complexity and diversity of the Arab world alongside realistic perspectives on Arab people, culture, art, history and politics.

The mission of the Arab Film Festival (AFF) is to enhance understanding of Arab culture and provide alternative representations of Arabs that contradict stereotypes frequently encountered in the American mass media while fostering a space for independent Arab filmmakers to screen their work for the public.
The executive director Serge Bakalian is a San Francisco-based filmmaker and activist. He worked for the F.A.O. of the United Nations and Greenpeace International before moving to San Francisco in 2007 to produce film, and theater dedicated to the Middle East. In 2011, Serge completed the award-winning “Default: the Student Loan Documentary,” which was released on PBS and LinkTV, and screened at over 140 campuses across the country. He has worked on a wide range of issues and campaigns, notably on defending the biodiversity of the world’s food supply against genetic modification. Serge holds a B.S. in Chemistry and a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

Program Director Laurence Mazouni received a BFA in architecture and stage design from the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts in France. She then moved to the US where she received a MFA in cinema from San Francisco State University where she instructs film studies and production media. She was a film lecturer at Stanford University Continuing Studies and worked as editor and film archivist at California Newsreel, a non-profit, media organization in San Francisco dedicated to addressing the injustices of racism and inequality. Her films have been screened internationally.

For a five city schedule, to purchase Ticket s& Passes, for Information about venues and to watch trailers 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