Arab films that earned rave reviews and awards at the Dubai International Film Festival and Gulf Film Festival are heading to Australia.
More than half of the 22 feature, documentary and short films screening at the 2011 Arab Film Festival Australia have been selected from DIFF 2010 and recent editions of the Gulf Film Festival, including films from the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Algeria, Iraq and the United Kingdom.
The 10-year-old Arab Film Festival Australia runs from June 30 to July 31 this year, beginning in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta before touring the country with screenings in Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane.
The showcase includes award-winning Emirati films Sabeel, directed by Khalid Al Mahmood, a poignant tale about two small boys who must buy medicine for their ailing grandmother; Once, Nayla Al Khaja’s story of a teenager getting ready for a blind date; and Nawaf Al-Janahi’s The Circle, the story of two criminals who begin to see the world from a new perspective.
Two DIFF films from Lebanon also feature: Stray Bullet, Lebanese director Georges Hachem’s drama about a young woman who changes her mind about marriage a fortnight before the wedding, which scooped the Muhr Arab best feature at DIFF 2010; and Sabine El Chamaa’s short film A Tuesday, about an elderly woman who walks out of an elegant boutique wearing a dress she has not paid for. The short won first prize in the 2010 Muhr Arab shorts competition.
Also from the Levant are Syria’s Mish Mush, Amar Chebib’s film about a frustrated poet who flees military service; and innovative Palestinian drama This is My Picture When I Was Dead, directed by Mahmoud Al Massad and winner of the Muhr Arab Documentary first prize. The film is one of two Dubai Film Connection projects in the Australian line-up: the other is Iraqi film Son of Babylon by Mohamed Al-Daradji, the story of a young boy who crosses Iraq with his grandmother in the hope of finding his father.
North Africa is represented by Cairo Exit, Hesham Issawi’s film that entered the DIFF 2010 Muhr Arab Feature competition, starring Mohammed Ramadan and Maryhan; Moroccan film Majid, Nassim Abassi’s compelling tale of a 10-year-old orphan; and Algerian dramas Garagouz, Abdenour Zahzah’s Muhr Award-winning short film about a puppeteer who travels the Algerian countryside with his son; and Amal Kateb’s We Will Not Die, which begins with the search for a missing corkscrew.
The last DIFF film in the roster is Lebanese director Nour Wazzi’s Habibti from the United Kingdom, a short film following a conservative woman pays a surprise visit to her daughter in London only to find her living with a boyfriend.
Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director, Dubai International Film Festival, said that the rich selection of DIFF and GFF films in the Australian showcase reinforces DIFF’s reputation as the definitive showcase of Arab film and talent.
“The founding mandate of DIFF and GFF has been to promote regional talent and work towards global recognition for Arab filmmakers. We are honoured to see the worldwide appreciation for films hand-picked by the Dubai festivals,” he said.
Fadia Abboud, Co-Director, Arab Film Festival Australia, said: "At DIFF 2010, not only did I watch the largest program of Arab films, I was able to meet filmmakers I've only spoken to over the years, and participate in forums about film and the industry. This exposure to the best and widest range of Arab films sped up our selection process for the Arab FIlm Festival Australia 2011 program and clearly there are many films screened at DIFF that have ended up in the AFFA program also. It was particularly beneficial to see the huge number of films from the Gulf and include some of them in our own program."
Celebrating the theme ‘Revolution, Romance, Realities,’ the Arab Film Festival Australia 2011 aims to showcase stories from diverse Arabic-speaking cultures to Australian audiences. The festival is managed by Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE), a not-for-profit community and arts organization, and driven by a volunteer organizing committee.
Entries are now open for the eighth edition of DIFF to be held from Dec. 7 to 14, 2011. Filmmakers from the Arab world, Asia, and Africa can submit their projects at www.dubaifilmfest.com  by August 31, 2011.
DIFF is held in association with Dubai Studio City. Dubai Duty Free, Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline and Madinat Jumeirah, the home of the Dubai International Film Festival, are the principal sponsors of DIFF. The Festival is supported by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority.