Documentaries and feature films from the Arabian world, prominent guests, debates, exciting food and pulsating rhythms. Arabian Filmdays is back next year.
About a year has passed since the repression started in Syria, and the condition of the country is still critical. We can daily see pictures of how the government slaughters its own people. This year’s Arabian Filmdays holds a special focus on Syria.
The festival’s artistic directors are particularly happy to be able to present Syria: Inside the Repression from 2011, which is filmed during the revolts. The documentary is made by the female journalist Sofia Amara, who will attend the opening ceremony and participate in the debate Syria seen from the inside: Massacre or revolution?
Why did the repression start? Why haven’t the Syrian people been able to overturn the government, like in Egypt and Tunisia? How long will the battles continue? What would be the consequences of an invasion from the international community? And last but not least, what will happen in the country if Assad falls?
These are all questions that Amara will have the chance to give an answer to, as a part of a strong panel as she is joined by Hanan Albalkhe, activist and member of the Syrian National Council (SNC), and Salwa Ismail, writer for the Guardian newspaper and professor at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Ismail is a specialist in Islamism and social movements in the Arabian world. She has also worked in the field in Syria during the repressions. The debate leader is Kai Kverme, project coordinator at the University of Oslo. He is a Middle East researcher, with specialisation in the fields regarding Lebanon and Syria.
Women and religion: equal rights or religious conservatism?
Yet another focus of this year’s festival is women and religion. The Light in Her Eyes is a documentary that takes us to a Koran school for young girls in Damascus. Knowledge of the Koran is paired together with women emancipation and liberation. The teacher herself, Houda Al-Habash, shows the path forward to the students by encouraging them to wear the hijab after finishing the Koran school.
In the debate The Light in Her Eyes – equal rights or religious conservatism?, unanswered questions will be discussed.
Happiness and sorrow
The film The Source is a fable telling the story of how women can force a positive development in the society they live in. Taking place in a small village in Morocco, the film shows some thematic similarities with Where Do We Go Now?, Nadine Labaki’s festival favourite that won the Public’s Choice Award during last year’s Films from the South festival. Where Do We Go Now? is screened at this year’s Arabian Filmdays as well.
Sport and movement are themes in several of the documentaries in this year’s programme. In Boxing with Her, we meet female boxers from Tunisia. Salaam Dunk shows us how playing basketball equals freedom for some young women in Iraq. In contrast, At Night, They Dance shows a rather dismal picture of what the situation is like for female belly dancers from Cairo’s lower class.
For the kids
Screenings for children are new this year. In the animation Muhammad – the Last Prophet, we are taken back to the beginning of Islam. The film portrays the story of Muhammad and the roots of Islam. Grown-ups, as well as children, can learn something from this film. The film will be for the first time seen in the Norwegian language, thanks to BABEL Filmklubb’s amazing work with the dubbing of the film.
Revolts and sheikhs
Women are in focus this year; however men get to have their voice heard as well. Free Men is a gripping and intense Algerian thriller unfolding during the World War II. The battle for freedom from the French colonial rule and for the liberation of the country from the Germans is taking place at the same time. We get to see how Muslims gave hundreds of Jews protection from the Nazis, from inside the walls of the mosque.
Black Gold is this year’s contribution from the Arabian Peninsula: an epic film production about oil findings and conflict in Qatar. The film is based on a Swedish travelogue from the 1930’s: Svart Tørst by Hans Ruesch. Tahir Rahim and Antonio Banderas play the central characters.
The Beginning is an Egyptian classic from 1986. The film is regarded one of the best of all times in Egypt: a solid political satire, which tells the story of a group of people who built up a society on an island after a plane crash. It enlightens today’s situation in Egypt in a better way than any film made after 2011.
Multi-angled pictures from this highly relevant part of the world are drawn by directors and experts on and from the Arabic area. Everything is topped up with Arabian food and Arabian Nights including live music and water pipes on Saturday night.