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3 Best Arab Film Festivals This Spring 2024

posted on: Apr 2, 2024

(Images Credit – Google Images)

By: Masha Lukovenko / Arab America Contributing Writer

Experience the top three film festivals in 2024 in a celebration of Arab American and Arab world cinema. San Diego Arab Film Festival offers live screenings and Arabic cuisine, while the Arabian Sights Film Festival in Washington, DC, promises a captivating dive into daring and unconventional Arab cinema. The Arab Film Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, unveils critically acclaimed works, often making their regional or national debuts. Dive into those three great film festivals with Arab America contributing writer, Masha Lukovenko.

In 2024, the San Diego Arab Film Festival will return to the Museum of Photographic Arts, showcasing feature-length and short film screenings live and in person. Beginning on Friday, April 12, the festival will have eight screenings, each featuring a feature film and a short film from the Arab world. The festival will also serve Arabic food in a cafeteria-style every evening. We can’t wait to screen these movies for the San Diego audience!

“I am from Palestine”
By Iman Zawahry
As Saamidah, a young Palestinian-American girl, anxiously starts her first day of school, she finds her identity in question when faced with a world map that doesn’t include her homeland.

That Seven Days
By Ehsan Shademani
As a Palestinian couple in Gaza gets ready for marriage, something unexpected happens that alters their life course. Following this occurrence, the Palestinian bride talks to her husband, Ahmed, a fisherman from Gaza, about her recollections of the highs and lows of the seven days preceding the wedding day. This documentary attempts, for the first time, to talk about the idea of living in Gaza and Palestine and the term resistance.

A House in Jerusalem
By Muayad Alayan
Follows a Jewish-British girl who is moved from England to Jerusalem for a new start that can help her heal from the death of her mother, but on the way, she meets with the ghost of a Palestinian girl who was separated from her family.

By Jan Hamshoro
“M’dina” is an experimental documentary that shows daily life in Tunisia’s old city from a foreign visitor’s perspective. Despite its exotic appearance, life in this enigmatic area is rooted in a story as old as time: people traveling through existence with aspirations and desires. This piece, which features uncut audio, is meant to be experienced loud and clear as a sensory feast.

Also, this April, The Arabian Sights Film Festival will be presented with the 38th annual Washington, DC International Film Festival, the umbrella organization of Arabian Sights. It’s a trendy and famous yearly film festival or arab culture and great, notable arab films.

Bye Bye Tiberias
Lina Soualem – France, Palestine, Belgium, Qatar – 2023

In this personal documentary about four generations of women and their common tradition of separation, Emmy-nominated Hiam Abbass comes home after leaving her Palestinian village to pursue her ambitions of acting in France. Abbass (known for her roles in the hit television series “Succession” and “Ramy” as well as Red Satin [FFDC 2003], Rock the Casbah [FFDC 2014], and Gaza Mon Amour [FFDC 2021]) made the difficult decision to leave her mother, grandmother, and seven sisters in the Palestinian village of Deir Hanna, Galilee, when she was 23 years old. Years later, Abbass revisited her quickly changing childhood home with the help of her daughter, director Lina Soualem. Palestine’s Academy Award® submission, Bye Bye Tiberias, is a significant movie that masterfully captures and portrays the the complexity of Arab women’s lives.

In French with English subtitles

The Teacher
Farah Nabulsi – UK, Palestine, Qatar – 2023

The Occupied West Bank serves as the setting for the moving film The Teacher. Basem (Saleh Bakri), a high school English teacher and covert resistance activist, is deeply scarred from a previous family tragedy brought on by the occupation. Adam, one of his students, suffered a personal tragedy as a result of settlement violence. He counsels Adam to stay out of jail or be killed by the Israelis. Scenes in courtrooms or at checkpoints where the characters witness their homes being ransacked and destroyed are powerfully moving. In a parallel narrative, an American couple fights for the freedom of their son, an Israeli soldier, who is being held captive by the resistance in return for the liberation of Palestinian prisoners. Although taking place in 2014, this masterfully acted and well-written blend of intense political thriller and sympathetic personal drama makes it impossible to ignore the connections to the current state of affairs.— Cornelius Moore

Arabic with subtitles in English

Abu Bakr Shawky – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan – 2023

Ghanim is preparing for the Great Safwa Race, the thrilling small-circuit camel racing competition where heroes are built. Matar, the younger brother, and a Bedouin tailor, grew up listening to Ghanim read poems about their fabled grandpa, “Hajjan,” which means jockey in Arabic. Ghanim’s hopes are dashed by foul play as he attempts to emulate his grandfather and establish himself in a regional qualifying race. Matar has a rider’s affection for his camel, Hofira, even though he doesn’t have Ghanim’s enthusiasm for the track. Unaware of the epic struggle ahead, the loyal couple decided to forgo fighting a local champion in favor of traveling as a team to exact revenge on Ghanim. Abu Bakr Shawky’s thrilling film, an epic adventure in size and breadth, has a legendary feeling of urgency supported by an evocative score and the breathtaking Arabian desert setting.—International Film Festival in Toronto

Arabic with subtitles in English

Finally, The greatest critically acclaimed and internationally recognized Arab American and Arab world films are showcased at the annual Arab Film Festival (AFF), proudly presented by AANM. Many of these films are unlikely to find a home in conventional American commercial theaters and instead make their regional or national premieres at AFF. This year, the festival will be held online and in person on May 15–19, 2024.

Fans of Arabic cinema and daring art film enthusiasts looking for fresh viewpoints and unconventional ideas might enjoy the selection of Arab and Arab American films presented by AFF. We take great satisfaction in providing a secure environment, a stage for Arab and Arab American movies and filmmakers, and a voice for these artists and their narratives.

The films that will be presented and screened during this festival have been posted and published on the AANM website and anywhere else. But hopefully, they will announce them soon; stay tuned.

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