BY: SAMIA BADIH
As more people spend time at home and online, many platforms are making Arab productions available to watch
More than ever before, independent Arab films are becoming increasingly easy for online viewers to access . With cinemas closed and more people spending time at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, many organisations concerned with the film industry in the region have been making films available online, even hosting virtual Q&As and live sessions with directors.
For those interested in where to stream such films, here are six platforms to check out.
1. The Palestine Film Institute
Through its online platform, the Palestine Film Institute has been showing a feature by a Palestinian filmmaker every week since March, including films such as Ghost Hunting by Raed Andoni. This week, Amer Shomali’s The Wanted 18 is the film of the week. The animated documentary tells the story of Palestinian town Beit Sahour’s story of resistance, through 18 cows who are wanted by Israeli security forces.
Led by Beirut DC, a cultural association for the development of independent Arab cinema, aflamuna, which is Arabic for “our films”, is an initiative created by a group of Arab filmmakers and film institutions, as part of which a number of films have been made available.
“During these hard times – and hopefully long after they’ve passed – we will be bringing you some of the best, most thought-provoking and independently minded works of contemporary Arab cinema to enjoy for free on this website for a limited time,” the team wrote on its website. Current films include 2017’s I Used to Sleep on the Rooftop by Angie Obeid and I Want to See by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, among others. New films are released every 15 days.
3. Arab Fund for Arts and Culture
The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (Afac) has also launched an initiative, now in its fourth week, offering an online selection of Afac-supported independent Arab films and music albums for free. This week, the initiative features six films: We Were Communists by Lebanese director Maher Abi Samra screens on Wednesday, April 29. The remaining five films will be available to view until Wednesday, April 29: Nation Estate, a sci-fi short film by Palestinian director Larissa Sansour; The Wanted 18, an animation/documentary by Palestinian director and cartoonist Shomali; Coming Forth by Day by Egyptian filmmaker Hala Lotfy; My Love Awaits Me by the Sea, a poetic fantasy documentary by Palestinian filmmaker Mais Darwazah; and The Trial Garden, a short drama by Algerian director Dania Reymond. The full programme, including films, dates and links, can be found here.
3. International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) has made more than 300 films available to watch online for free, including documentaries from the Arab world. One of the featured films is the Egyptian documentary Happily Ever After directed by Ayman El Amir and Nada Riyadh. The movie follows the filmmaker’s complicated love story amid the country’s political events, asking the big question of whether she should stay or leave Egypt.
You can see IDFA’s full list of films here.
Cinemoz, a video-on-demand service from the Arab world, has an interesting selection of Arab films available, including films from Egypt’s golden era of cinema, so we’re talking about films starring the likes of Abdel Halim Hafez, Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama, among others. More recent films include Asmaa starring Hend Sabri and the award-winning documentary film Gaza Surf Club. The platform also includes original series by its production arm, Moz Originals, such as Standup Baladi, a series of episodes with Lebanon’s next generation of stand-up comedians, and Rabih TV, about a crew of four who are trying to put together a television series.
5. The Royal Film Commission Jordan
The Royal Film Commission Jordan has been making films by Jordanian and Arab filmmakers available for viewing through its Facebook page. The films are posted as links and, when possible, followed by a scheduled live Q&A session with the director. Films include Dalia Al Kury’s powerful Privacy of Wounds, a documentary in which the Jordanian filmmaker reconstructs a prison cell in a Norwegian cellar where three former prisoners agree to be locked up to reveal their deepest feelings. The commission has most recently also launched a new series of conversations with figures from Arab cinema to discuss not just films, but about challenges facing filmmakers in the region.
The streaming giant now has a growing selection of award-winning Arab films such as Omar by Hany Abu-Assad, Where Do We Go Now? by Nadine Labaki, Very Big Shot by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, and Exterior/Night by Ahmad Abdalla. If you haven’t seen those, then we can’t recommend them enough.