Muhr Arab: DIFF 2011 showcase of best contemporary Arab features


Lineup includes red carpet gala of Egyptian romance ‘A Whole One’ must-see films based in Maghreb, Levant, Egypt

Love in the times of enduring strife, war and hopeless struggle is the dominant theme of the 11 feature films short-listed for the prestigious Muhr Arab Feature competition and to be screened at the eighth Dubai International Film Festival to be held until December 14, 2011.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, DIFF’s Muhr Arab Feature line-up includes three feature films that have been produced with the support of its co-production initiative, Enjaaz, marking the support that the festival extends to regional filmmakers. In all, the lineup features six world premieres, four Middle East premieres, and one international premiere.

“One of the measures of the growth of a film industry is the number of quality feature films it produces,” said Erfan Rashid, Director of Arab Programmes, DIFF. “The festival’s increasingly large showcase of home-grown movies, supported through initiatives such as Enjaaz, will encourage more emerging filmmakers to step forward and drive the industry – qualitatively and quantitatively.”

Flagging off the Muhr Arab Feature competition is Egyptian filmmaker Hady El Bagoory’s A Whole One, a heart-warming love story about a man looking for a wife that will meet all his needs, yet through the journey he hurts those that love him, as a result of which he suffers the consequences of losing them. The film will make its red carpet gala world premiere at the Madinat Arena on Dec. 11, with a second screening on Dec. 13 at Mall of the Emirates (MoE) Cinema 12.

Making its international premiere at DIFF 2011 is L’Amante du Rif (The Rif Lover) by Moroccan director, writer and producer Narjiss Nejjar. The film is inspired by a true story about a 20-year-old girl jailed for 10 years for being the lover of a drug baron. The project was selected by the Dubai Film Market, the comprehensive script-to-screen initiative of DIFF for Enjaaz support this year. The Rif Lover will be screened on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13 at MoE 10.
Winning international acclaim at Venice and Toronto fests is the Enjaaz-funded Habibi Rasak Kharban (Darling, Something’s Wrong with Your Head), by Palestinian director Susan Youssef. The film is a modern love story, inspired by the immortal parable of Majnun Layla, and its related body of poetry dating back to the 7th century by Bedouin poet Qaysibn al-Mulawwah. The lead cast of the movie include Maisa Abdelhadi and Kais Nashif, whose earlier feature Paradise Now was screened at DIFF. The film will make its Middle East premiere at DIFF. The film will be screened on Dec. 10 at MoE 12 and Dec. 12 at MoE 10.
Beirut Hotel, another Enjaaz project making its Middle East premiere, is a high-wire drama that follows a short-lived romance between a young Lebanese singer trying to escape her controlling husband and an NGO staffer who is about to be accused of spying. The France-Lebanon fiction feature is directed by Danielle Arbid (In the Battlefields, A Lost Man). The film will be screened on Dec. 12 at MoE 12, and Dec. 13 and MoE 9.

Moroccan director Hakim Belabbes’ Boiling Dreams, making its world premiere at DIFF, is about a young father of two, who plans to illegally cross into Spain. He assures his wife that he will call her three days after his departure however, she never hears from you. Boiling Dreams will be screened on Dec. 9 and Dec. 11 at MoE 12.
Jordanian director Deema Amr’s 7 Hour Difference, another world premiere at DIFF, tells us what happens when the East and West collide at the crossroads of love, culture, and family. Dalia, the protagonist, is caught in a dilemma when the love of her life, Jason, shows up unannounced at her sister’s wedding in Amman, and proposes to her. The trouble is that she hasn’t even broached the subject to her family. The second screening of the film is on Dec. 13 at MoE 1.

Another world premiere from Jordan is Yahya Al Abdallah’s The Last Friday, which follows the existential crisis of a divorced forty year-old man, who needs an operation, and has to find the money to pay for it. The Last Friday will be screened on Dec. 11 at MoE 12 and Dec. 13 at MoE 6.

From Lebanon is Youcef Joe Bou Eid’s Heels of War, which depicts the an intimate story of a narrator, who recounts the tale of his parents meeting, much before his existence, in the run up to their marriage. The film will be screened at the First Group Theatre in Souk Madinat Jumeirah on Dec. 11, with a second screening on Dec. 13 at MoE 1; and Daniel Joseph’s Taxi Ballad, which follows Youssef, who moves to Beirut, in hope of becoming the best taxi driver. While driving through the streets one night, he comes across an American Pilates instructor named Jordan, and the two form an unlikely bond rooted in nostalgia. The film will screen again on Dec.10 at MoE 1. Both films will make their world premiere at DIFF.

French Director Hiner Saleem’s If You Die, I’ll Kill You follows fresh-out-of-prison Philippe, who crosses paths with Avdal, a Kurd who is trying to track down an Iraqi war criminal. When Avdal suddenly dies, Philippe finds himself organising the funeral, only to meet Avdal’s fiancé Siba, who will not return to Paris after tasting freedom. The film will be making its Middle East premiere at DIFF, at the First Group Theatre on Dec. 12, with a second screening on Dec. 13 at MoE 1.
Also from France is Abelhai Laraki’s Love in the Medina set in the Medina of Casablanca. It narrates the story of a young man Thami, from a conservative family of religious scholars, who incenses his father as he decides to enter the profession of butchery. Making its Middle East premiere at DIFF, the film is a journey of initiation, a quest for freedom and Thami’s revolution of romance in ever-changing Morocco. The film will be screened on Dec. 10 at MoE 1 and Dec. 12 at MoE 10.

Acclaimed film veteran and six-time Academy Award nominee Peter Weir, award-winning actor Amr Waked, German filmmaker Emily Atef, whose films have received numerous awards in the global festival circuit; critically acclaimed Lebanese filmmaker Ghassan Salhab, and Moroccan film critic Hamid Aidouni, will appraise the Muhr Arab Awards for feature films and award US$600,000 in prize money.

DIFF2011 is screening 171 films from 56 nations representing the best of national, regional and world cinema between December 7 and 14 at the Mall of the Emirates, Madinat Jumeirah and The Walk at JBR.


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