Kicking off this week and running until the 26th of May, the fifth edition of Festival Cinéma Arabe will take place in The Netherlands (in the cities of Rotterdam, Den Haag, Maastricht, Den Bosch and Utrecht). With more than 30 feature films, documentaries and short films by international filmmakers with an Arab background, the festival presents an overview of contemporary film production from countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, but also Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, etc. The festival hopes to portray “the current developments in the Arab world” so there’s no way of getting around films and documentaries “clarify(ing) what the demonstrations and revolutions have meant for the people there and how the Arab Spring has brought about undeniable change”, as the programme has it. A second theme running through the festival’s schedule is the perception in the West about the Arab world, and vice versa. The festival has an impressive line-up. Below are some films set in North Africa — a selection of those we haven’t mentioned here on the blog before:
Dance of Outlaws is a documentary by Mohamed El-Aboudi about the Moroccan woman Hind (22) who is raped at the age of fifteen and cast out by her ashamed family because she has lost her value as a marriageable virgin. Without documents, which her family refuses to give her back, she has no rights, cannot get a legal job or even arrange an identity for her daughter. The only possibility to keep her head above water is to work as a traditional wedding dancer and in prostitution.
An sililar theme returns in Malak. In his new film Abdeslam Kelai tells the story of the 17-year old Malak who discovers she is pregnant. Although she knows better, she hopes the father of the child will marry her, but instead runs off. Fearing her family’s reaction, she decides to leave her native town Larache and settle in Tangiers.
Hidden Beauties is set in Tunisia, December 2010: Zaineb is a young woman, engaged to a French-Tunisian contractor, whose mother wants her to wear a veil. Her friend Aisha works in a bakery where her boss wants her to remove her veil “to make her look more attractive”. The two young women refuse to be dictated by the men in their surroundings. Each in their own way they fight for their individual freedom, while around them the rumbling and the tension of the revolution can be clearly felt. Director Nouri Bouzid filmed Hidden Beauties during the uprisings in Tunisia.
In It Was Better Tomorrow Hinde Boujemaa shows a post-revolutionary Tunisia through the eyes of a homeless single mother searching for a better life. The day after Ben Ali steps down, Aida Kaabi is evicted from her house as she is behind in her payments. The camera follows her, roaming through the streets, hunting for a job and a roof above her head for her and her children.
And Die Welt is the debut of Dutch-Tunisian director Alex Pitstra. We follow Abdallah, a DVD salesman from Tunis. After meeting the Dutch tourist Anna, he starts dreaming of a better life in Die Welt, as his father always calls Europe. Will he be able to make the crossing with her, or will he have to flee his country in another way? Does he even want to go? The film is based on Pitstra’s own observations in Tunisia, the land of his father, which he was unfamiliar with for the first 25 years of his life. The director will attend the screening of Die Welt on Saturday 11 May. On the 12th of May he will join the talk ‘Intercultural Cinema’.
All details of the festival here.