2005 Arabian Sights Film Festival in Washington, DC

The 2005 Arabian Sights Film Festival featuring contemporary Arab Cinema will take place October 14 – 23 in Washington, DC. The Tenth Annual Arabian Sights is presented by the Washington, DC, International Film Festival and offers an array of the newest, most provocative and eclectic films from and about today’s Arab world. These timely films show the range and commitment of directors, several of whom will be present at their screenings, who invariably manage to tell moving stories while exploring the social, religious and political issues facing their region. See schedule and movie descriptions listed below.
All films are screened with English subtitles. Arabian Sights 2005 is programmed and coordinated by Shirin Ghareeb, Assistant Director of the Washington, DC International Film Festival.
For more information on this series call 202-724-5613 or go to http://www.filmfestdc.org
Ticket price for each showing is $9.00 per person and may be purchased at the theater starting one hour before the first show. A special film festival package of 9 tickets for all films is available for $72.00; passes may be reserved by calling 202-724-5613.
All films will be shown at the Loews Cineplex Wisconsin Avenue Cinemas, 4000 Wisconsin Ave., NW. Take Metro Red Line to Tenleytown.
Available in the theatre building along Upton Street for $2.00 with a validated parking ticket.
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
American Tunisian Association
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University
Center for the Global South, American University
Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic
The Mosaic Foundation
The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities
The Jerusalem Fund
Special Thanks To Loews Cineplex Theaters,
WAMU 88.5FM–The Official Radio Station of Filmfest DC
7:30pm Sabah
Immediately followed by an opening Night Party
6:30pm Kiss Me Not
7:00pm The Liberace of Baghdad
Shown with Saddam 17
9:00pm Sabah
9:15pm Viva Algeria
6:00pm Viva Algeria
6:30pm Reel Bad Arabs *FREE
8:30pm Kiss Me Not
8:30pm the Liberace of Baghdad
shown with Saddam 17
6:30pm Tenja
8:30pm The Prince
6:30pm The Prince
7:00pm The Best Times
9:15pm Bab El Wad
9:30pm Shouf Shouf Habibi!
Shown with the Kitchen Conqueror
6:00pm The Best Times
6:30pm Bab EL Web
8:15pm Shouf Shouf Habibi!
Shown with the Kitchen Conqueror
8:30pm Tenja
Ruba Nadda
Canada, 2005, 90 minutes
Appearing In Person: Director Ruba Nadda
Sabah lives a quiet life in Canada, where her Syrian family moved some 20 years earlier. Her conservative family dominates her life, from the mother she lives with and takes care of, to her bossy brother who doles out the money drop by drop. At 40, she is dismissed as an old maid who will always do their bidding. But when she treats herself to a trip to the local indoor swimming pool, she meets single, red-haired carpenter Stephen. After much hesitation she accepts his lunch invitation and romance blooms. Keeping him secret from her family, she embarks on a whirlwind affair before both culture and love collide. Writer/director Ruba Nadda has created a very appealing and pleasantly calibrated story that balances conservative elements with gender, liberation and sensuality. Sabah is beautifully played by actress Arsinée Khanjian who brings strength and conviction to the title character. An audience favorite at the Rotterdam and Seattle International Film Festivals.
Opening Night festivities are co-presented with the Embassy of The Syrian Arab Republic and the Georgetown Design Group
Merzak Allouache
Algeria, 2005, 99 minutes
Kamel and his brother Bouzid live in Bab El Oued, a working class neighborhood of Algiers. Kamel is a disillusioned, brooding loner. The more jovial Bouzid is an Internet fanatic. He spends all his time in a cyber café “chatting” with girls all over the planet, inviting them to Algiers in the hopes that one of them will in turn invite him to her country so he can leave Algeria. One day Laurence, one of his French correspondents, accepts his invitation. She will arrive in Algiers next week. Bouzid is frantic. He never imagined this would happen. How can he receive Laurence in style, when he is penniless and lives with his entire family in a tiny apartment? Despite himself, Kamel will become his accomplice in organizing the French guest’s visit.
Hala Khalil
Egypt, 2004, 113 minutes
One of the latest box-office hits from Egypt. Salma, lonely after the unexpected death of her mother, begins receiving a series of anonymous letters, complete with old pictures and cassettes of her beloved singer Mohammed Mounir. Moving between the contrasting neighborhoods of uptown Maadi and sprawling Shobra, Salma sets off with her two girlfriends to unravel the mystery. Hala Khalil, one of the new wave of young Egyptian directors, masterfully describes Salma‘s set of friends and family plus Cairo ‘s various social circles in a bold, original, yet highly accessible, picture. Cast includes Hanan Turk, Hend Sabri, Menna Shalabi, Amr Waked and Hassan Hosny.
Albert ter Heerdt
The Netherlands, 2004, 89 minutes
A cross-cultural, record-breaking box office hit, Shouf Shouf Habibi! Follows the uproarious ups and downs of Abdullah and his uprooted Moroccan family as they cope with new lives in contemporary Holland. Ab, as he is known by his friends, bounces through a series of hilariously misguided “opportunities”–jobs in an office and a Muslim butcher shop, bank robbery, possible marriage, and his conviction that post-9/11 Hollywood is desperate for the Middle Eastern star power only he can offer. Ab‘s errant attempts to march to his own drumbeat jostle with a chaotic household. His marriage-minded father fumes over Ab‘s feisty, fashion design-aspiring sister Leila, now liberated by her newfound freedom. Meanwhile, his younger brother Driss embraces Western capitalism with an impressive, if unscrupulous, fervor. Touching on generational conflict and cultural dislocation, Shouf Shouf Habibi! achieves an appealing, sympathetic tone that has connected with worldwide audiences. —Chicago International Film Festival
Shown with:
In Person: Director Shereen Abdul-Baki.
Reem wanders the aisles of her neighborhood market, slipping into dreams of fortune-telling teacups and chicken-slaughtering aunts, who offer advice on cultural identity, love, independence. (USA, Directed by Shereen Abdul-Baki, 2003, 8 minutes)
Jocelyn Saab
Egypt and Lebanon, 2005, 110 minutes
Appearing In Person: Director Jocelyn Saab
Dunia, a beautiful young Egyptian woman of 23, has the world at her feet as she completes her university degree in Literature in Cairo. She also is committed to pursue her dream to become a professional dancer. It is during a casting for an oriental dance contest that she meets the illustrious and charming Professor Beshir, a leading intellectual who is to be the supervisor of her thesis. The Professor is drawn to the young woman’s speech, as she dares speak of pleasure and the difficulties of being a woman in today‘s society. But she soon learns that the burden of women in Egyptian society is heavier than she suspects. Cast includes Hanan Turk and Mohamed Mounir.
Sean McAllister
U.K., 2004, 75 minutes
With two inches of ash perpetually dangling off his cigarette and his thinning hair pulled into a rakish ponytail, Samir Peter looks more like a ’50s beatnik than a classically trained concert pianist who once enjoyed celebrity status in his country. He was, in fact, a musical phenomenon in pre-Saddam Iraq. The self-proclaimed Liberace of Baghdad (or the Chopin of Iraq) is an incredibly likeable character whose life, like so many in that war-torn country, has been put on hold by dictatorship and war. Samir provides an ironic, near-fatalistic window into the daily horrors of his occupied nation, while never losing sight of his dreams and personal aspirations, which include living in America–the country his daughter and many other Iraqis blame for their nation’s chaos, perilous lack of security, and rising death toll. In this film, shot over an eight-month period, director Sean McAllister follows and befriends Samir as he documents the downward spiral of violence, and the heartbreak, fear, and anger of Samir’s family. It is a brave and moving story that shows us the human face of war that we all too rarely see. — 2005 Sundance Film Festival
Shown with:
Saddam 17, an out-of-work Saddam Hussein double, moves to Los Angeles and is
overwhelmed by America’s consumer culture.
(USA, Directed by Ross Venokur, 2005, 14 minutes)
Mohamed Zran
Tunisia, 2004, 100 minutes
Appearing In Person: Director Mohamed Zran
Adel works at a flower stand on the main boulevard in Tunis. Living with his struggling family and blowing more money than he should on drink, he‘s merely coasting through life. Amidst all the commotion at the flower stand, Adel still finds time to daydream and watch the pedestrians walk by. One day, a beautiful lady, Donia, catches his eye and she becomes the object of his dreams. A chance delivery of flowers puts him in touch with her and he learns that she manages a bank. Not knowing any other way to make her notice him, Adel continues to deliver flowers to her office, claiming they come from an anonymous source. His circle of family and friends are wildly split regarding his seemingly hopeless amorous endeavor. Director Mohamed Zran builds a portrait of an entire people searching for something better, yet uncertain how to articulate their desires in this film that Variety has described as “unpretentious and thoroughly winning”.
Dr. Jack G. Shaheen
95 minutes
Appearing In Person: Film Specialist Dr. Jack G. Shaheen
Out of 1000 pre-9/11 Hollywood films that have Arab Muslim characters, 12 were positive depictions, 52 were even handed, and the other 900-plus films were negative.
Dr. Jack G. Shaheen, the world‘s foremost authority on film images of Arabs, has documented in several books Hollywood‘s portrayal of Arabs as Public Enemy #1 — brutal Bedouin bandits, sinister sheikhs, machine-gun wielding and bomb-blowing “evil” Arabs bent on terrorizing the west. In his most recent book “Reel Bad Arabs, How Hollywood Vilifies a People,” Shaheen examines how and why this one stereotype has, for more than a century, prowled movie screens worldwide.
Join Dr. Shaheen for a candid in-depth overview and discussion of stereotypical Arab images. He will explain why the Arab images persist, and how the images impact individuals, public opinion, and public policies. Clips will include Planet of the Arabs, a fast action adventure montage directed by the talented filmmaker Jaqueline Salloum. The film projects Hollywood‘s stereotyped images of Arabs over the past 30 years, from Back to the Future to True Lies.
This event is offered FREE on a first come, first serve basis. No reservations or tickets are required.
Hassan Legzouli
Morocco, 2004, 80 minutes
French-born Nordine (Roschdy Zem), devoted son of a Moroccan immigrant miner, sets off from his home in northern France to fulfill his patriarch father‘s last wish — to be buried in his family village in the Atlas Mountains. This is Nordine‘s first visit to the land of his forefathers, a land he knows only through family stories — at least until he meets the competent and alluring Nora (Aure Atika), in search of new horizons as she escapes from a comfortable life as a kept woman. Nora joins him on the road, and they progress south through the expansive, aridly beautiful landscape with the corpse of his deceased father in the back of the van, a situation that leads to some wry humor. Before too long, a tentative but mutual attraction develops between Nordine and Nora, as Nordine works through his sometimes idealized, sometimes-erroneous ideas of what it means to be Moroccan. Tenja is a highly satisfying and memorable film. —Seattle International Film Festival 2005
Nadir Moknèche
Algeria, 2004, 113 minutes
A richly drawn portrait of three women in the heart of Algiers, which brims with human drama, touching details, poignancy and humor. Headstrong 27-year-old Goucem leads a double life working for a photographer by day and spending steamy weekend evenings in nightclubs. Her extravagantly bold widowed mother, Papicha, spends her life nibbling pizzas while watching TV, and oscillates between her present fears and her nostalgia for the time when she was a famous cabaret dancer. Goucem‘s faithful friend and neighbor, Fifi, is a vivacious prostitute who entertains gentleman callers around the clock, including a local police official. Director Nadir Nadir Moknèche, known as the “Algerian Almodovar,” weaves a vivid tapestry of women exiled in their own country. Cast includes Lubna Azabal, Biyouna, and Nadia Kaci.

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