2012 Arab Film Festival
Yallah. What we said when the previous edition of the Arab Film Festival came to Arc in 2011 and is even truer in 2012: 'No cinema is more timely and needs to be explored as that from the Arab world’. In 2011 the beginning of the Arab Spring was only just being felt in the region’s cinema. In 2012, more than one year on, the political order of many of the region’s nations has been well and truly overturned – and is clearly still far from being re-ordered. And so the various Arab national cinemas are all now pre-occupied in their responses to what has happened.
Perhaps what’s of most interest is in how many new Arab films have a clear line of insight into just how long this has been coming. The stories are not always grand dramas of recent national political turmoil. More often they’re microcosms and metaphors that encapsulate the popular desires long laid beneath aspirations for political reform. They reveal even deeper, longer fermenting conflicts and tensions, of which the Arab Spring is just the latest manifestation; especially between the desire for personal social freedom and individuality, and the continuous values of family, custom, tradition and authority. And they challenge generalisations about what really are genuine Arab values and traditions – and what are just homilies masking and legitimatising authoritarianism.
Certainly films such as the Tunisian documentary No More Fear capture the grand sweeping course of the Arab Spring. Yet Egyptian popular cinema – the region’s largest and one of the longest standing commercial film industries in the world – continues to show a genius for grasping what this means on the street and in the home in Asmaa and Cairo 678; two popular new films about individual struggles for social justice. The opening night film, Habibi shows up some of the tensions between younger Palestinian Arabs (with their new, transnational life experiences) and the social conservatism of the old nationalism. And maybe Jordan’s The Last Friday or Lebanon’s Tayeb, Khalas, Yalla – and their stories of middle-aged Arab men suddenly beyond old social comfort zones – can be taken as metaphors for the brave new world of 2010s Arab society.
As in 2011, features screening in this year’s Arab Film Festival will be preceded by a selection of recent Arab-Australian short films, as well as some of the prize-winning and promising short filmmaking straight from the region.
Come and celebrate Arab cinema, the strength and resilience of the Arab people and the talent of Arab filmmakers telling the stories.
Presented in association with Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE), Parramatta.
Thanks to: Fadia Abboud, Mouna Zaylah (ICE); Fortissimo Films.
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