Below are the films that were screened during the 2016 Arab Film Festival in San Diego.
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.
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.
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.
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 cinematic operation. In the process, he slyly manipulates public opinion and makes himself into a celebrity.
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.
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.
Mohammed Assaf, an aspiring musician living in Gaza, sets a seemingly impossible goal: to compete on the program Arab Idol. The 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.