ROME - The Dubai International Film Festival has announced the lineup of its Muhr Arab feature film section which will focus on "Arab citizens and their condition after the momentous changes that have recently taken place in their respective countries," said section topper Erfan Rashid.
A large portion of the nine pics competing in this key Dubai category are concerned with family ties, always a powerful force in Arab culture, but even more so given recent turmoil, changes and conflicts.
Middle East bow of "Ladder to Damascus," a poetic meditation on his country's destruction, shot in the midst of armed conflict with bombs exploding near the set; Palestinian-American director Cherien Dabis ("Amreeka") will launch her "May in the Summer," about an Arab-American bride-to-be who returns to her family homestead in Jordan; prolific Moroccan helmer Jilali Ferhati, who is a Dubai regular, will be back with the world preem of "Pillow Secrets,"about a young woman drawn back into her past after learning that her dead mother was a prostitute.
Palestinian helmer Rashid Masharawi, known for depicting the absurdity of life under occupation in "Laila's Birthday," will locally launch his dark comedy "Palestine Stereo" (pictured) about two brothers left homeless after an Israeli bomb hits their home. Pic world-preened in Toronto.
Algerian-born auteur Amor Hakkar ("The Yellow House," "A Few Days of Respite") will world preem "The Proof," which delves into relationships, marriage and gender roles in changing Algerian society; Morroco's Laila Marrakchi will be in Dubai with her "Marock" followup "Rock The Casbah," with an ensemble cast that includes Hiam Abbas, Nadine Labaki, and Omar Sharif.
Lebanese newcomer Mahmuod Hojeij will world preem "Stable Unstable" about Beirutis in therapy in their unstable country.
Rounding out the roster are portmanteau pic "Void," about the emotional voids left in six womens' lives by the ravages of the Lebanese civil war, and Moroccan helmer Hicham Lasri's Casablanca-set drama "They Are The Dogs," depicting a man released after 30 years in jail coming to terms with societal changes underway in Morocco.
Noting that from its start ten years ago the fest's primary objective has been the promotion and expansion of Arab cinema, DIFF Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali touted the pics "as topical and powerful," adding that "they present a cross-section of what is of concern in the Arab world at this moment."
DIFF's 10th edition will run December 6-14.