The cinema week festival in Damascus has represented a golden opportunity for exposure of international films, one denied for several years.
Along with 25 feature films in official competition from November 3-9, the Syrians have discovered several dozen other films, including French and US movies projected on the fringes of the festival, but in generally run-down cinemas.
Several young Syrians have said they would not be going to the cinema because of the "poor quality of the films transmitted by these under-equipped theatres," preferring films offered by British, French and US cultural centers.
The participation of the Syrian public in the screenings has exceeded all expectations. To that end, 21-year-old Dana -- like many young people -- has left aside her lessons at the pharmacy faculty for marathon film sessions.
The cinema halls screen Amelie from France, In the mood for love from China or Moulin Rouge from the United States.
Some hours after closing time on Friday, things are looking good. The film Aberdeen by director Hans Peter Moland ranked as one of the favorites for the closing ceremony on Friday evening, critics said.
Also in competition was the British film by director John Boorman The Tailor of Panama much endorsed by the public, along with two French films Officers' Ward by Francois Dupeyron and Amour d'enfance, along with the Belgian film Everybody Famous by Dominique Deruddere.
Among the Arabic films selected, the feature-length Syrian film Two moons and an Olive Branch by the star director Abdel Latif Abdel Hamid, which hit a chord with critics and public alike, is likely to garner the prize for the best Arabic film, if not picking up the silver award.
The Egyptian film The Magician by director Radwan Al Kashek is also among the films touted for success.
The jury is made up of 10 members and headed up by Austrian director, Peter Patzak -- AFP
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