Arab Film Festival in San Diego Closed Its 4th Year on Saturday, November 22
The 2015 Arab Film Festival in San Diego ran Friday, November 20, through Sunday, November 22. The festival screened six feature length films and five short subjects from countries ranging from Tunisia to Iraq. There were nearly 500 attendees over the three days of films.
The festival opened with the award-winning The Wanted 18 from Palestine and included the U.S. Premiere of Queens of Syria. See below for descriptions of the 2015 offerings.
7:30 PM Friday, November 20
The Wanted 18 Directed by Paul Cowan and Amer Shomali
The Wanted 18 recreates an astonishing true story: the Israeli army’s pursuit of 18 cows, whose independent milk production on a Palestinian collective farm was declared “a threat to the national security of the state of Israel.” In response to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, a group of people from the town of Beit Sahour decide to buy 18 cows and produce their own milk as a co-operative. Their venture is so successful that the collective farm becomes a landmark, and the cows local celebrities – until the Israeli army takes note and declares that the farm is an illegal security threat. Consequently, the dairy is forced to go underground, the cows continuing to produce their “Intifada milk” with the Israeli army in relentless pursuit.
Scarecrow, Directed by Mohammed Salman
A boy’s father leaves the family farm when the crops die to go find work at sea. The boy and his grandfather work together to call the angels to come bless the farm so things can go back to how they were. Through his journey we explore the meaning abandonment and loss.
4:50 PM Saturday, November 21
Diaries of a Flying Dog, Directed by Bassem Fayad
A man and his tiny dog have something in common: obsessive compulsive anxiety disorder. Throughout their quest to heal, we dissect into pieces the surroundings – in its upbringing, fears and constant inner conflict. A memory is recalled; a memory filled with fear, violence, war, love and a past almost depicting itself again in the present and in the future. The setting is a family’s house. A father, a mother, sons, daughters and grandchildren living in Lebanon. The time is when beauty faded and ugliness and expiation prevailed. The man is the director, the dog is the mirror and the film is the instrument.
Alia, Directed by Raghed Charabaty
Haunted by the memory of civil war, an old Lebanese man revisits the last few moments
of a fateful bus ride that leads up to the murder of his beloved.
6:55 PM Saturday, November 21
Queens of Syria, Directed by Yasmin Fedda
Queens of Syria tells the story of fifty women from Syria, all forced into exile in Jordan, who came together in Autumn 2013 to create and perform their own version of the Trojan Women, the timeless Ancient Greek tragedy about the plight of women in war.
What followed was an extraordinary moment of cross-cultural contact across millennia, in which women born in 20th century Syria found a blazingly vivid mirror of their own experiences in the stories of a queen, princesses and ordinary women like them, uprooted, enslaved, and bereaved by the Trojan War.
Made of Clay, Directed by Fayssal bin Salhi
Made of Clay” is the story of Ahmed, a passionate young stop-motion artist. Ahmed wants to pursue his dream, but finds it difficult to do so because of his father’s views on his art. In an attempt to gain his father’s acceptance, Ahmed unravels the truth behind his dissatisfaction. What Ahmed could not have foreseen is that in uncovering his father’s past, he learns something about his own future.
8:55 PM Saturday, November 21
From A to B, Directed by Ali F. Mostafa
The year is 2011 and Omar (Rifaai) finds himself still racked with guilt over the death of his best friend Hady, who passed away five years ago. Now, just days away from the birth of his first child, he decides to take the road trip they never got to take…much to the dismay of his very pregnant wife.
Omar reaches out to his estranged high school friends Jay (Albutairi) and Ramy (Alfons) who have lost touch since Hady’s death to take the road trip in his memory. Jay, now a playboy/wannabe DJ, and Ramy, an #activist (with 737 twitter followers!), take some convincing, but finally agree to the trip. The boys decide to drive from Abu Dhabi – via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria to arrive in Beirut, on what would have been Hady’s twenty-fifth birthday.
Their journey is filled with speedbumps – breakdowns, wrong turns, shady mechanics and a camel or two. If all of this doesn’t drive them crazy, it might just bring them closer.
2:05 PM Sunday, November 22
Silence of the Shepherd, Directed by Raad Mushatat
Thirteen year old Zahra lives in a village on the edge of the desert in the south of Iraq. She leaves home to fetch some water from the small river nearby. She never comes back. With no trace of Zahra, the collective imagination of the village community creates its own tale of the disappearance of Zahra; a tale that belongs to the world of the forbidden. The disappearance of Zahra abruptly and dramatically shakes the moral order of the village. The social fabric and traditions of the society becomes at conflict with itself and its destiny, breeding more and greater disappearances effecting everybody’s life.
Helwan Moi, Directed by Mohammed Adel
Director Mohammed Adel says of his film, “It’s about Helwan, one of the greatest and famous Egyptian cities. It’s about my relationship with the city, and about its changes and transforming and for people there, too, as Helwan was a city for Bashas and high class people, but it’s now for sellers, microbus’ drivers, and local people. My story about Helwan since childhood mixes with my own story about my family, and my family’s perspective about the city. For sure, Helwan has a lot of stories inside, but that’s my story, my own story about Helwan.”
4:45 PM Sunday, November 22
Villa Touma, Directed by Suha Arraf
Award-winning screenwriter Suha Arraf (The Syrian Bride, Lemon Tree) makes her feature directorial debut with this story of three unmarried aristocratic Christian sisters from Ramallah who have been unable to come to terms with the new reality of occupation and the mass migration of Palestine’s aristocracy. In order to survive, they lock themselves away in their villa, clinging desperately to the nostalgia of their former glory. One day, their orphan niece Badia, walks into their lives and turns their world upside down. To preserve the family’s name, the three sisters try to marry her off to an eligible aristocratic Christian man. Will dragging Badia to every funeral, wedding, and church mass result in finding a good husband for her?
Pere, Directed by Lotfi Achour
Hedi is a taxi driver in Tunis. One evening he drives to the hospital a pregnant young woman who is going into labor. This brief encounter will bring a series of random, tragic and unexpected events, leading to a life-changing experience for both of them.