Six Arab films at the Berlin Festival … Get to know the Arabs of the Berlinale 71 | Opinion


A few hours before the start of the winter window of the 71st Berlin International Film Festival (March 1-5). In a previous article, we listed the films participating in the international competition. In this article, we deal with the Arab participation during the session, which is represented in six feature films shown in four programs, including three Lebanese films and two Egyptian films, in addition to a film produced by an Egyptian-Palestinian co-production.

In addition to the six films, a video installation is shown in the “Forum Expanded” section, titled “All of Your Stars are But Dust on My Shoes” by director and visual artist Haig Evazian, who is currently the co-artistic director of Beirut Center. For the arts.

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Here are the six Arab films to be expected in Berlinale 71.

Maya Notebooks – Lebanon (International Competition)

The only Arab film participating in the international competition is “Maya Notebooks”, the new fictional film of the duo Joanna Haji Touma and Khalil Joreige, the most successful and continuous directorial duo in Arab cinema during the current century. Since they produced “The House of Dice” together in 1999, Gerge and Haji Touma have presented ten joint works, between fiction and documentary, long and short, including “Another Day”, winner of the International Critics Association (Fibressi) prize at the 2005 Locarno Festival, “I want to see” starring Catherine Deneuve The documentary “Lebanese Rocket Club” was officially selected for the 2008 Cannes Festival, and the winner of the best documentary from the 2012 Doha Tribeca Festival.

In Maya Notebooks, the duo relies on a personal memory of letters and recordings that Khalil Joreige exchanged with a friend during the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s. The archive, which turns raw material for the story of Maya, a Lebanese immigrant to Canada who receives a shipment carrying her memories during the same period, refuses to open the shipment and retrieve the memories, but her daughter Alex insists on exploring her mother’s history. The film stars Reem Turki, Manal Issa, and Paloma Foute.

As I Want – Palestine / Egypt (Interview Contest)

Another Arab film within the competitive Berlinale programs, specifically in the Encounters Encounters competition that the festival introduced last year with the arrival of its new artistic director, Italian critic and historian Carlo Chatrian. It is a competition specialized in films of a modernist nature, which try to use different methods of narration. Samaher El-Kady, director Samaher El-Kady, will compete in it this year, to be historically the first Arab film to participate in this competition.

The film is a Palestinian Egyptian, Palestinian by virtue of the nationality of its director, Egyptian by virtue of the nationality of its production (the festival site indicates that it is jointly produced by an Egyptian, French, Norwegian, Palestinian), as well as by virtue of its subject matter, which begins with the judge taking the camera to monitor the protest of women in Egypt against the incident of mass harassment that occurred in Tahrir Square January 25, 2013. She started from the event and from her pregnancy during the filming of the film and her relationship with her late mother, to link her personal experience as a Palestinian Arab woman with women’s issues and her struggle for equality in the Arab world.


Souad – Egypt (Panorama)

Last June, the Festival de Cannes announced its official selection list that was not shown due to Corona, among which was “Souad”, director Aiten Amin’s second feature film, after “Villa 69”, and after a successful participation in directing the controversial series “Seventh Neighbor.” The selected films would have been shown later in other, smaller festivals, except for “Souad” whose makers were determined to wait and bet on Berlin’s choices. The film appears in the panorama section to be the first Egyptian film (and perhaps the first Arab film) ever to be officially selected for the two largest festivals in the world.

Souad, a teenager from a regional Egyptian city, lives a normal life as a daughter, sister and student, and has a virtual parallel life on her mobile phone. A life that causes dangerous repercussions for Souad and those around her, and causes an unexpected meeting between two people who are not united by anything but their relationship with Saad. Ayten Amin decided not to hire any professional actors and created “Souad” as it should be: a contemporary tale with fresh faces.

Wildest Love – Lebanon (Panorama)

The second Arab film in the panorama section is “Miguel’s War” according to the international title, the new documentary by director Elian El Raheb, the filmmaker who is adept at finding the most dramatic characters and creating a relationship that allows characters to show unique aspects in front of the camera. Something we have seen in her very successful previous films, “Sleepless Nights” and “Mele Ya Ghaziel”.

In “The fiercest love”, the monk introduces her new character: Miguel, a young Lebanese man who grew up in the early 1980s to a conservative Catholic father and an authoritarian Syrian mother, in a country torn apart by civil war and where it is difficult for a teenager to declare his different sexual orientations. Miguel joins one of the rival armed groups, but soon fails to coexist and decides to emigrate to Spain. Today, decades later, Eliane El Raheb traces Miguel’s life, mixing documentary scenes, animation, theater and archival materials in a film shot between Spain and Lebanon.


Aa Amal Tji – Lebanon (panorama)

Also from Lebanon comes the third and last Arab film within the Panorama of the Berlinale 2021. The first feature film by George Peter Burberry, which bears the Arabic title “Aa Amal Come” and the international “Death of a Virgin and the Sin of Not Living”, The funny title related to the film’s story, drawn from the director’s personal experience.

Burberry, a Lebanese-Argentine, American-born, bases his film on the fact that Lebanese youth (according to the press file) are used to accompanying their friends in adulthood to visit a prostitute whose first sexual experience is their threshold for entering the world of manhood. The hero of the story, Etienne, is a Lebanese teenager who goes with three of his friends to achieve this goal, without ever expecting that by entering that room, things will change forever in his life. The 30-year-old director presents his first feature film after two short films, and uses a cast of new actors to fit a film whose director wrote that he is from a generation that did not live the civil war, but that he must fight it in order to form his identity and existence.


Seven years around the Nile Delta – Egypt (Expanded Forum)

The sixth Arab film in the Berlinale has 71 very special experiences, which appear in the Forum Expanded section, which is the section that emerges from the boundaries of classic cinema for a more spacious and open space for experimentation, where the film screenings are mixed with plastic and visual arts, reading books and other media. The section that chose a five-and-a-half-hour (331 minutes to be exact) film sums up its title, “Seven Years About the Nile Delta”.

A complete individual industry of Sherif Zuhairi, who directed, authored, produced, photographed and edited his film, after he carried his camera and moved for seven years from 2012 to 2019 between 32 cities and villages in the Delta, monitoring the diversity of Egyptians ’life activities in an environmentally degraded region, to produce work. An extended artist that fits perfectly into the nature of this section of the Berlin Film Festival program.


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