2016 Arab Film Festival Program Set. Tickets on sale now!

2016 marks the fifth anniversary of the Arab Film Festival in San Diego.  This year, the Festival offers 7 screenings.  It opens with the epic Iraqi Odyssey that offers a view of modern Iraq that is missing from public discourse.  It includes political satire (Very Big Shot), dramas (3000 Nights and As I Open My Eyes) and a glimpse at rising young artists and musicians from across the region (Yallah! Underground).  For the first time, the Festival will screen a shorts program with a sampling  of narrative, documentary, animated and experimental films.  It closes with the remarkable story of Mohammed Assaf whose dreams as a child growing up in Gaza were realized when he crossed the border into Egypt to perform in the very popular Arab Idol competition (The Idol).

This year, the Festival will take place Thursday through Sunday, October 27-30, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.  Festival Passes good for all screenings are available for $50.  Tickets for individual screenings may be purchased for $10 (general) and $5 (students).

For Festival passes, click here:  Get Pass

7:00 PM Thursday, October 27

Iraqi Odyssey
Tracing the emigration of successive generations of his family over more than half a century, this riveting documentary epic from acclaimed expatriate Iraqi filmmaker Samir pays moving homage to the frustrated democratic dreams of a people successively plagued by the horrors of colonialism, dictatorship, war, and foreign occupation.
By weaving together the ironic, wistful, and witty testimonies of his family with rare documents from private and state archives, and Ottoman film footage, Samir creates a genuine people’s history of Iraq, at once humble and majestic.

6:30 PM Friday, October 28

Very Big Shot
This crime-drama-turns-political-satire, follows a small-time Lebanese drug-dealer as tries to move his product across the border into Syria.  Along the way, he allies with an aspiring filmmaker to disguise his drug smuggling as a cinematiic operation.  In the process, he slyly manipulates public opinion and makes himself into a celebrity.

9:00 PM Friday, October 28

Yallah! Underground
Yallah! Underground
follows some of today’s most influential and progressive Arab artists from Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and  Jordan through times of rapid social change. They represent a new generation of artists who seamlessly integrate aspects of different cultures and philosophies into their lifestyle and their work.

6:15 PM Saturday, October 29

3000 Nights
Layal, a young newlywed Palestinian schoolteacher is arrested after being falsely accused and sentenced to 8 years of prison.  She is transferred to a high security Israeli women’s prison where she encounters a terrifying world in which Palestinian political prisoners are incarcerated with Israeli criminal inmates.  When she discovers she is pregnant, the prison director pressures her to abort the baby and spy on the Palestinian inmates.  However, resilient and still in chains, she gives birth to a baby boy.  Through her struggle to raise her son behind bars, and her relationship with the other prisoners, she manages to find a sense of hope and a meaning to her life.  Prison conditions deteriorate and the Palestinian prisoners decide to strike.  The prison director warns her against joining the rebellion and threatens to take her son away.  In a moment of truth, Layal is forced to make a choice that will forever change her life.

9:15 PM Saturday, October 29

Shorts Program
Headed by 2016 Academy Award nominee Ave Maria, the shorts program features a range of narrative, documentary, animated and experimental films from Palestine, Lebanon, Saudi  Arabia, Syria and Switzerland.

2:30 PM Sunday, October 30

As I Open My Eyes
Tunis, summer 2010, a few months before the Revolution: Farah, 18 years-old, has just graduated and her family already sees her as a future doctor.  But she doesn’t think the same way.  She sings in a political rock band.  She has a passion for life, gets drunk, discovers love and her city by night against the will of her mother Hayet, who knows Tunisia and its dangers too well.

5:00 PM Sunday, October 30

The Idol
Mohammed Assaf, an aspiring musician living in Gaza, sets a seemingly impossible goal: to compete on the program Arab IdolThe Idol tells a fictionalized version of his life. It starts out in 2005 in Gaza when Mohammed is a young child, playing in a band together with his tomboy sister Nour and two friends.  It follows him through personal and musical challenges as he grows up, including his harrowing trip across the border from Gaza to Egypt to compete in the Arab Idol finals.  The film ends by switching to real-life footage of Mohammed Assaf winning Arab Idol, followed by a brief overview of his life after the finale.

Arab Film Festival in San Diego to Receive Grant from San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture

For the second year in a row, the Arab Film Festival in San Diego has been selecteded for funding by the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.  This recognition and support is an important milestone for the Festival and for San Diego’s Arab Community: it shows that Arab culture is an important part of the fabric of San Diego!  In addition, receiving funding from the Arts and Culture Commission for two years in a row (and with the prospect of this support continuing in future years), helps lay the groundwork for the Festival’s growth as dynamic part of San Diego’s cultural life.


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