Below are the films shown at the 2017 San Diego Arab Film Festival:

October 20, MOPA 7:30 PM


Opening night: Come early, meet old and new friends, and enjoy Arabic food, coffee and tea!

A seemingly traditional journey of a young sheikh in a governmental mosque who moves from leading prayers to becoming a TV celebrity issuing “fatwas” that are accepted by millions who have become fans of his as a result of his courage and his attempts to deviate from the usual religious rhetoric in a society heavily influenced by fundamentalism. The TV spotlight only shows his eloquent yet sarcastic answers he gives to the callers in a preset scenario, while in the dark and cloudy space around him, bloody struggles for power are raging, struggles he had always tried to avoid. But as Hatem continues his rise, the more he finds temptations and the less he has chances of salvation. Sheikh Hatem finds himself caught in a complex network of conflict, between the partial loss of a son being treated abroad and a wife whose love has grown cold, and security institutions trying to control him and-using his vulnerabilities-exploiting him to serve their interests. Meanwhile, a sovereign entity entangles him in solving a problem for the president, whose son causes the family an embarrassment of such a fragile society can’t handle. “I cannot tell the entire truth, but I do my very best to speak nothing else.” This is what Sheikh Hatem tries to do. Will he be able to create even a small fracture in a thick wall of hypocrisy and fear?

For more information and to see a trailer, click here.

October 21, MOPA 6:15 PM

Stitching Palestine

Co-presented by the Women’s Museum of California

Meet director Carol Mansour and producer Muna Khalidi

Twelve Palestinian women sit before us and talk of their life before the Diaspora, of their memories, of their lives and of their identity. Their narratives are connected by the enduring thread of the ancient art of embroidery.

Twelve resilient, determined and articulate women from disparate walks of life: lawyers, artists, housewives, activists, architects, and politicians stitch together the story of their homeland, of their dispossession, and of their unwavering determination that justice will prevail.

Through their stories, the individual weaves into the collective, yet remaining distinctly personal.

Twelve women, twelve life-spans and stories from Palestine; a land whose position was fixed on the map of the world, but is now embroidered on its face.

For more information and to see a trailer, click here.

October 21, MOPA 9:00 PM


Rabih, a young blind man, lives in a small village in Lebanon. He sings in a choir and edits Braille documents for an income. His life unravels when he tries to apply for a passport and discovers that his identification card, which he has carried his entire life, is a forgery. Traveling across rural Lebanon in search of a record of his own birth, he meets people on the far fringes of society who tell their own stories, open further questions and give Rabih minor clues about his true identity. Descending into a void at the heart of his existence, Rabih encounters a nation incapable of telling his or its own narrative.

For more information and to see a trailer, click here.

October 28, AMC Mission Valley 2:00 PM

Reel Bad Arabs

This groundbreaking documentary dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually unchallenged form the earliest days of silent film to today’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Featuring acclaimed author Dr. Jack Shaheen, the film explores a long line of degrading images of Arabs–from Bedouin bandits and submissive maidens to sinister sheikhs and gun-wielding “terrorists”–along the way offering devastating insights into the origin of these stereotypic images, their development at key points in US history, and why they matter so much today. Shaheen shows how the persistence of these images over time has served to naturalize prejudicial attitudes toward Arabs and Arab culture, in the process reinforcing a narrow view of individual Arabs and the effects of specific US domestic and international policies on their lives. By inspiring critical thinking about the social, political, and basic human consequences of leaving these Hollywood caricatures unexamined, the film challenges viewers to recognize the urgent need for counter-narratives that do justice to the diversity and humanity of Arab people and the reality and richness of Arab history and culture.

For more information and to see a trailer, click here.

October 28, AMC Mission Valley 4:10 PM

Small Pleasures

After the father’s death, Noufissa, a fifteen year old girl, and her mother, are forced to accept an invitation from a distant cousin to come live with her large traditional family. A keen friendship is forged instantaneously between the two young cousins. Then a great love story where Chama takes it upon herself to initiate Noufissa into the inner intimate world of women in the wide house. On this backdrop, other destinies are interwoven for other women in the family: Kulthum, the younger sister of Chama is obliged to interrupt her flirtation with her cousin, the same age as her, to get married to an old man that she does not love; other women long to leave the large family house to live more independently with their own children and husbands; other girls aspire to live a true love story like those they saw from time to time in an Egyptian musicals. So many dreams that remain within the walls of the large house where men, always absent, are only shadows and ghosts. These dreams seem distant and inaccessible, rather like a midsummer night’s dream in a large house where the only escape is a terrace, the only possible place open to the sky, life and the world outside. This terrace is a unique place of complicity and freedom and a secret garden for our two female characters.

For more information and to see a trailer, click here.

October 28, AMC Mission Valley 6:20 PM

Tour de France

Far’Hook is a twenty-year-old rapper. Following a settling of scores, he’s obliged to leave Paris and lay low for awhile. His producer, Bilal, suggests that Far’Hook take his place accompanying his father Serge on a tour of all of the ports of France, following the path taken by the painter Joseph Vernet. Despite the shock between generations and different cultures an improbable friendship develops between the promising rapper and this builder from the North of France, during an adventure that will lead them to Marseille for a final concert, one of reconciliation.

For more information and to see a trailer, click here.

October 28, AMC Mission Valley 8:30 PM


Hedi is a simple young man. He is neither very talkative, nor reactive and does not expect much from the life that is traced for him. Indifferent to everything around him, he just takes life as it comes. He allows his authoritarian and overwhelming mother to organise his marriage to Khedija. He allows his boss to send him on a prospection trip to Mahdia during the week of his wedding celebrations. And he allows Ahmed, his brother who has come back from France especially to take part in the ceremony, to dictate how he should behave. In other words, he takes it all as it comes. He understands what is happening to him, but he just waits for things to go by.

In Mahdia, he meets Rim who works as an activity leader in a hotel, a seaside resort that is losing its tourists.

Intrigued by her insouciance and frivolity, Hedi gets involved in a passionate love relationship with her.

In the mean time while the wedding preparations go on, Hedi is finally forced to make a choice.

For more information and to see a trailer, click here.

October 29, AMC Mission Valley 2:00 PM

1948: Creation and Catastrophe

Meet director Andy Trimlett and co-director Ahlam Muhtaseb.

Through riveting and moving personal recollections of both Palestinians and Israelis,1948: Creation & Catastrophe reveals the shocking events of the most pivotal year in the most controversial conflict in the world. It tells the story of the establishment of Israel as seen through the eyes of the people who lived it. It is simply not possible to make sense of what is happening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today without an understanding of 1948. This documentary was the last chance for many of its Israeli and Palestinian characters to narrate their first-hand accounts of the creation of a state and the expulsion of a nation.

For more information and to see a trailer, click here.

October 29, AMC Mission Valley 4:30 PM

Shorts Program

The shorts program offers a selection of 8 short films from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Qatar and USA that reflect a range of topics and creative approaches. They include narratives and documentaries as well as experimental films.

For more information about all of the films click here.

October 29, AMC Mission Valley 6:40 PM

Ali, the Goat and Ibrahim

Ali loves his goat as the incarnation of his dead girlfriend. His neighbor Ibrahim hears impossibly loud phantom noises – an affliction that has cursed three generations of his family. When Ali is told by a mystic to throw a rock in the three seas of Egypt, this squabbling pair of misfits embark on a life-changing road trip with the goat.

Director Sherif El Bendary’s quirky debut feature combines sincerity and absurdity and a whole lot of heart as the action in this realist film crescendos towards its mystical finale. This is a film about processing grief and loss; about friendship and love; and about faith and compassion – not religious faith, but the commonplace day-to-day trust that builds communities.

For more information and to see a trailer, click here.

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