October 2, 2008–The Middle East International Film Festival (MEIFF), organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) is keeping up the momentum of its second edition with two of its most unique and important programmes: Arab Women Directors and a Retrospective on Palestine.
The Director of MEIFF, Nashwa Al Ruwaini explained that the Arab Women Directors programme is being held for its second year running. ¬ìThe first edition of the programme was enthusiastically received by the audience and critics,¬î she said. ¬ìWe aim at attributing all Arab Women Directors, who have a special handle on the cinema scene across the region. We believe that we should be responsible for giving them the chance to showcase their splendid capabilities to the world; and we hope that this event will work as an ideal platform for all of them and help them reach out to the maximum audience possible. We hope, in addition, that it will encourage other emerging talents to make the effort to show off both themselves and their experiences,¬î she added.
Al Ruwaini mentioned that this year¬ís programme is being led by the Lebanese critic Rima Al Mismar and dedicated to the late famous director Randa Chahal Sabbag who passed away last August. Sabbag was known for her distinguished achievements and her last film The Kite (Tiyara men warak) was the only Arab movie to win the Venice Film Festival Award – the Silver Lion – in 2003. It will also be the opening film of the programme.
Eleven films in the four categories – narrative, documentary, shorts and animation – come from Lebanon, Palestine, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria and France. Among the films will be the Palestinian production Always Look them in the Eyes (Dayman Itala¬íi Bi¬íeyounhom) by the multi-award winning director Azza El-Hassan which film highlights the ways in which Palestinians have communicated with the Israelis. Also screening is Beggars and Gentlemen (Chahatoun wa Noubala) by Asmaa El Bakri. The 1991 production is a remarkable adaptation of the novel by Albert Cossery and tackles the last days of WWII when a man kills a prostitute and the officer assigned to the case awaits the moment of confrontation.
One of the most interesting and highly-anticipated screenings under this programme is the Lebanese animation film My Son (Ya Waladi!) by Lina Ghaibeh. My Son is an animated short film about the pain of a mother waiting for the return of her son who disappeared during the war. Other films in the programme include Marock by La?Øla Marrakchi, Khmissa by Molka Mahdaoui, Behind the Mirror (Wara Al Miraat) by Nadia Cherabi, Our Heedless Wars (Horoubona Al-Ta¬íisha) by the late Randa Chahal Sabbag, Pret A Porter Imm Ali by Dima El-Horr, The Silence of the Palace (Samt El Koussour) by Moufida Tlatli and Thread of Life (Khait Al-Hayat) by Razam Hijazi.
MEIFF 2008 is also highlighting films in a special retrospective titled 60 Years Since the Division of Palestine, handled by the renowned Iraqi director and author of the Palestinian Cinema Encyclopaedia, Kais Al-Zubaidi. This programme is screening only foreign, non-Arab productions made since 1970, which stress the universal aspect of the Palestinian cause. It will feature documentaries, shorts and narrative screenings and presents the audience with an opportunity to understand the ¬ìspatial memory¬î that recorded the tragedy of the Palestinians. Such a perspective is at the one time both geographically specific whilst being universal, in that it does not only concern human history, but is also specific to the Palestinian homeland.
The 16 films to be screened under this category include award winning films and directors such as Nils Vest, who directed An Oppressed People is Always Right in 1975 and tackled the issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Also to be screened is Intifada – Road to Freedom by Sarah Montgomery that tells the story of the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Also showing is the trilogy The Land of Fathers, Land of the Fathers Part 2 – A Reason To Go and Land of the Fathers Part 3 – Adios Beirut produced between 1974 and 1983. The director, George Sluizer tries to document the supporters of Palestinian guerrillas and tell the story of two families driven from their rightful territory.
Another important highlight of the screenings is Letters from Palestine which was made by 11 directors: Franco Angeli, Giuliana Berlinguer, Maurizio Carrassi, Giuliana Gamba, Roberto Giannarelli, Wilma Labate, Francesco Ranieri Martinotti, Francesco Maselli, Mario Monicelli, Ettore Scola and Fulvio Wetzl. The 2003 documentary features ten stories depicting images of civilian life, as observed by the eleven directors, some of whom are among the most well-known names in Italian cinema today. In this documentary, the filmmakers show the terrible conditions endured by Palestinian people in Jerusalem today and includes a non-stop film shoot lasting a week in dangerous areas including Jerusalem, Gaza and Ramallah.
Other films to be screened will include Everyday by Marco S. Puccioni, Gaza Ghetto- Portrait of a Palestinian Family by Pea Holmquist, Genet in Chatila by Richrad Dindo, I Came to Palestine by Robert Krieg, On Our Land and Voices from Gaza by Antonia Caccia, Palestine in Flames by Monika Maurer, Shoot and Cry by Helen Klodawsky and Young Freud in Gaza by Pe?É Holmquist and Suzanne Khardalian.
MEIFF, held in Abu Dhabi, is an annual event and a project of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH). The Festival is a cultural event dedicated to bringing a diverse slate of international films and programs to the community and introducing filmmakers from around the world to the resources of the region. This year¬ís MEIFF will see several new additions to an already exciting schedule. For the first time, there will be a section of the Festival concentrating on Environmental Films as well as a showcase of documentaries highlighting the 60 years since the division of Palestine and various high-profile industry initiatives.