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Orientation: A New Arab Cinema Schedule Announced!

Thursday, July 26th, 2012 by

The Film Society of Lincoln Center recently announced the schedule for Orientation: A New Arab Cinema (August 24-29). The upcoming series is the result of a new partnership between FSLC and the Dubai International Film Festival, presenting a series of recent feature films and shorts that have been supported by the Dubai Film Market.

Among the films the series will showcase include a number of films from female filmmakers, including Cherien Dabais’ Amreeka, the tale of an Arab mother and son’s experiences after they move to America just as the country is invading Baghdad; Daniele Arbed’s Beirut Hotel, a romantic thriller that was originally banned from Lebanese theaters; and Susan Youssef’s Habibi, about the struggles a young couple faces to stay together in the West Bank. Other highlights include Zindeeq, the film about the devastation felt by Palestinians upon Israel’s founding in 1948. He film marked the return to fiction filmmaking after 14 years by Michel Khleifi, one of the founders of Palestinian cinema. 

FSLC Program Director Richard Peña said, “New filmmakers, often educated outside the region and well aware of contemporary international film styles, have begun to create a new Arab cinema that fearlessly engages in a dialog with their respective societies, broaching subjects unthinkable even a decade ago.”

Tickets are currently on sale both at the box office and on-line at filmlinc.com. Ticket prices are $13 for the general public, $9 for students and seniors and $8 for members. Screenings will be held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater (located at 165 West 65th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway).

Films and Descriptions for

Amreeka (2009) 96min
Director: Cherien Dabis
Countries: USA/Canada/Palestine
New York-based filmmaker Cherien Dabis’s first feature chronicles a bittersweet adjustment to a multicultural way of life after Muna, a single mother from Ramallah, and Fadi, her teenage son, move to America. The problem is their timing: they arrive in the U.S. just as the U.S. enters Baghdad. How mother and son cope with each other and adjust to the “American” relatives who welcome them is as much the revelatory subject of Amreeka as is their reactions to the strange behavior of ordinary people in this land of liberty.
Sunday, August 26 at 9:15PM
Monday, August 27 at 3:15PM

Beirut Hotel (Beyrouth hotel) (2011) 99min
Director: Daniele Arbid
Countries: Lebanon/France/Sweden
A taut romantic thriller, that was initially banned from Lebanese theaters for mentioning the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Beirut Hotel follows the passionate tryst between night club singer Zoha (Darine Hamzé) and Mathieu (Charles Berling), a French lawyer in Beirut on business. Their affair becomes a refuge from both their personal turmoil as well as the impending chaos outside the hotel’s walls. Daniele Arbid creates a portrait of Beirut as a tinderbox, full of explosive tensions and ready to ignite at any moment.
Sunday, August 26 at 5:10PM
Wednesday, August 29 at 4:15PM

Cairo Exit (Khoroug) (2010) 96min
Director: Hesham Issawi
Countries: Egypt/UAE
In the timely and resonant Cairo Exit, every character is looking for a way out. Amal, a Coptic Christian woman, is torn between staying home and caring for her mother or eloping with her Muslim boyfriend. Her sister Rania has been romancing a successful businessman, but desperately tries to find money for an operation that will “restore” her virginity. Abandoned by her husband, the other sister, Hanan, is reduced to prostitution in order support their child. Through these and other stories, director and co-screenwriter Hesham Issawi sketches a portrait of a country pushed to its limit, where the desperation that defines daily life threatens to explode.
Sunday, August 26 at 7:15PM
Thursday, August 30 at 4:15PM

City Of Life (2009) 100min
Director: Ali F. Mostafa
Country: UAE
A crossroads between East and West, traditional ways and contemporary lifestyles, Dubai is truly the star of this pioneering first feature film by London-trained Ali F. Mostafa. The pampered son of a wealthy family bristles under the expectations of his parents; a former Romanian ballet dancer (YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH star Alexandra Maria Lara) seeks to create a new life far away from her homeland; an Indian cabdriver with an uncanny resemblance to a Bollywood star tries to not let dreams take over his reality. These and other stories together create a kaleidoscope of contemporary Dubai; the action moves from chic restaurants to humble workers’ quarters, tracing the diverse experiences for both natives and expats is a city that’s constantly reinventing itself.  
Saturday, August 25 at 9:10PM
Monday, August 27 at 5:15PM

Every Day Is A Holiday (Chaque jour est un fête) (2009) 87min
Director: Dima El-Horr
Countries: Lebanon/France/Germany
A stunning first scene immediately establishes the highly charged atmosphere in Dima El-Horr’s carefully controlled first feature, filled with absurd moments and symbolic gestures. Three women (Hiam Abbass, Manal Khader, Raïa Haïdar) with very different motives board a bus on the Lebanese Day of Liberation to visit their husbands in jail. When the bus is stopped short by a stray bullet, the women are left to find their own way in the hot sun through mountains full of mines, amid sounds of muffled explosions, throngs of refugees, and rumors of massacres. Their perilous journey becomes an internal one towards liberation, as individual life and collective memory blend, and the personal and political are blurred.
Monday, August 27 at 7:15PM
Tuesday, August 28 at 4:15PM

Habibi (2011) 78min
Director: Susan Youssef
Countries: Palestine/Netherlands/USA/UAE
Young lovers Qays (Kais Nashif) and Layla (Maisa Abd Elhadi) are university students in the West Bank who hail from Khan Yunis in Gaza. He is pursuing a degree in literature and she in engineering, but they are forced to return home before completing their courses. In the more religious and traditional environment of Khan Yunis, their love story can continue only by marrying. Yet Qays, who is a construction worker living in a refugee camp, is too poor to convince Layla’s father that he can provide for his beloved daughter. As the couple struggles to be together, Qays paints verses from the classical poem Majnun Layla all over Khan Yunis, a rebellious act that angers Layla’s father and the local self-appointed moral police.
Saturday, August 25 at 7:00PM
Monday, August 27 at 1:30PM

The Last Friday (Al juma al akheira) (2011) 88min
Director: Yahya Al-Abdallah
Countries: Jordan/UAE
Having gambled away all he owned—in the process losing his wife and son—Yousef lives a humble, stoic life, driving a cab and simply letting the world pass by without ever involving himself in it. Then one day he’s diagnosed as urgently needing an operation he knows he can’t afford, and the sense of his impending mortality pushes Yousef to break out of the shell he’s so carefully created and reach out one final time to those he once cared for. The first Jordanian film to be invited to be screened at the Berlin Film Festival, THE LAST FRIDAY is touching, carefully observed portrait of a man without a sense of place in a rapidly-changing society.
Saturday, August 25 at 5:00PM
Monday, August 27 at 9:00PM

The Rif Lover (L’amante du rif) (2011) 90min
Director: Narjiss Nejjar
Countries: Morocco/France/Belgium
A visually ravishing tale of women struggling against the bonds of tradition, THE RIF LOVER firmly established its director, Narjiss Nejjar as one of the most important voices in her generation. Set in a small seaside village, the film tells the story of Aya, 20-years old, curious and impatient to discover what the world might offer. Her brothers have gotten involved with a local drug smuggler known as The Baron; when trying to work out a drug shipment with him, Aya’s older brother offers her to The Baron, setting a motion a chain of events that will leave no one unchanged.
Friday, August 24 at 7:00PM
Wednesday, August 29 at 6:15PM

Zelal (2010) 90min
Directors: Marianne Khoury & Mustapha Hasnaoui
Countries: Egypt/France/Morocco/UAE
One of the hallmarks of the emerging Arab cinema has been its willingness to explore areas of society formerly considered off limits to the gaze of outsiders. Such was the world of Egypt’s psychiatric hospitals, forbidding institutions where those deemed incapable to adapting to society’s demands are warehoused, sometimes for decades. Marianne Khoury and Mustapha Hasnaoui reveal the inner workings of two such hospitals, introducing us to the committed if wildly overworked staff that do their best against overwhelming odds, but especially to the patients. We meet women sent there after an argument with their husbands, and middle-aged men living there since they were unruly boys. Rejected by normal society, these modern-day “social lepers” have created their own society, with its own conventions, hierarchies and forms of relationships, which Khoury and Hasnaoui reveal to us with insight, patience and respect. Winner of the International Critics’ prize at the 2010 Dubai International Film Festival.
Sunday, August 26 at 3:00PM
Thursday, August 30 at 2:15PM

Zindeeq (2009) 85min
Director: Michel Khleifi
Countries: Palestine/UK/Belgium/UAE
One of the founders of Palestinian cinema, Michel Khleifi was at last able to return to fiction feature filmmaking (after an absence of 14 years) with this bold, revealing look at the different meanings of the naqba (the “disaster” of the 1948 founding of Israel) for succeeding generations of Palestinians. M (played by Mohammed Bakri) is a filmmaker long ago settled in Europe. He returns to his native Nazareth ostensibly to film survivors of the 1948 war and expulsion, but the testimony he captures exists as fragments, shards of personal experiences that refuse to coalesce into a coherent narrative. Moreover, the trip home brings up long buried family issues, especially M’s relation to his parents, who chose to stay in Nazareth rather than flee.
Saturday, August 25 at 1:00PM
Wednesday, August 29 at 8:15PM

Shorts Program 1 (Total Running Time: 100min)
In these diverse films, spanning the poetic to the realistic, the protagonists engage in a daily struggle for a better life.
Sunday, August 26 at 1:00PM
Tuesday, August 28 at 2:15PM

Sabeel (2010) 20min
Director: Khalid Al Mahmood
Country: UAE
Two brothers sell homegrown produce on the roadside to support their sick grandmother.

Land Of Heroes (Ard Al Abtal) (2011) 9min
Director: Sahim Omar Kalifa
Country: Iraq
In the midst of the Iran/Iraq war, two young siblings find their worst enemy to be their mother’s friend’s son.

The Salt Fisherman (Sayyad Elmilh) (2011) 19min
Director: Ziad Bakri
Country: Palestine
A fisherman refuses to give up hope that someday he will catch a fish in the sea.

The Road To Paradise (Sur la route du paradis) (2011) 43min
Director: Uda Benyamina
Country: France
While Leila’s husband is a refugee in England, she and her two daughters settle in France trying to build a better life in a community of other illegal immigrants.

Shorts Program 2 (Total Running Time: 103min)
Nothing is affected more than the relationship between people when societies shift and change. These five films explore how men and women have to renegotiate traditional roles in modern times, and how those without power find ways to coexist with those in power.
Tuesday, August 28 at 8:30PM
Wednesday, August 29 at 2:15PM

Garagouz (2010) 24min
Director: Abdenour Zahzah
Country: Algeria
Mokhtar is a travelling puppeteer encountering on one trip the personifications of his country’s problems.

Samir’s Room (2011) 15min
Director: Osama Qashoo
Countries: UK/Palestine
Samir finds a way to regain entry into his childhood bedroom, now occupied by Israeli settlers.

The Masseur (Attaieb) (2011) 24min
Director: Anouar Lahouar
Country: Tunisia
A masseur used to bathing the living is called upon to prepare a corpse for burial when no undertaker is available.

Cheers To You (Noş) (2011) 21min
Director: Soleen Yusef
Country: Germany
A young German-Kurdish couple come to terms with their arranged marriage.

Fatin Drives Me Crazy (2011) 20min
Director: Mohammed Sendi
Country: Saudi Arabia
Newlywed Fatin loves her husband, but she needs to get to the grocery store.

Public Screening Schedule for ORIENTATION: A NEW ARAB CINEMA

Screening Venue:
The Film Society of Lincoln Center – Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th Street, between Broadway & Amsterdam (upper level)

Friday, August 24

Saturday, August 25
3:00PM  Panel Discussion

Sunday, August 26
1:00PM  Shorts Program 1

Monday, August 27

Tuesday, August 28
2:15PM  Shorts Program 1
8:30PM  Shorts Program 2

Wednesday, August 29
2:15PM  Shorts Program 2

Thursday, August 30

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