From My Syrian Room, The Council to make their world premiere in Dubai

Sara 2014, The Sea is Behind and The Narrow Frame of Midnight are also competing

Events and Festivals

From My Syrian Room, The Council to make their world premiere in Dubai

A new crop of documentaries and narrative features from the Arab world are to make their world premieres in the main competitive section at the Dubai International Film Festival from December 10 to 17.

Syrian filmmaker and artist Hazem Elhamwi's documentary From My Syrian Room (France, Germany, Lebanon, Qatar and Syria) will make its world premiere in the Muhr Feature section. In his first feature documentary, through returning to his most distant memories,Elhamwi explores a culture of fear and a nation’s desire to be free. The film was developed with support from the DOCmed creative documentary development programme, co-funded by Euromed Audiovisual.

In the same section, Palestinian-Jordanian director Yahya Alabdallah's documentary The Council (UAE and Jordan)follows the school council elections in a Palestinian UNWRA school in Jordan. The film explores the safety of the school's pupils, the skills they are learning and the separation between boys and girls, the director, who was an Arabic teacher for eight years, told Euromed Audiovisual this summer. "I want the decision-makers, when they watch the movie, to breathe a little bit and re-think what’s going on." The Council is his second feature after his narrative feature The Last Friday.

In Lebanese filmmaker Bassem Fayad's creative documentary Diaries of a Flying Dog (Lebanon, France, UAE and Qatar, produced by Jad Abi-Khalil, DOCmed head of studies), a man and his tiny dog have something in common: obsessive compulsive anxiety disorder. 


In Reine Mitri's creative documentary In This Land Lay Graves of Mine, the filmmaker sells land in her “Christian village” to a Muslim, leading her to examine present-day territorial and demographic fears between Lebanon’s communities.

In the documentary Trip Along Exodus (Lebanon and Palestine), Palestinian filmmaker Hind Shoufani retraces life as the daughter of a Palestinian activist father who abandoned a life in US academia to join the Palestinian revolution of the 1970s. 

In Letters from Al Yarmouk (Palestine), Palestinian filmmaker Rashid Masharawi captures messages from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, Syria. 

In Salim Abu Jabal's documentary Roshmia (UAE, Qater, Palestine and Syria), 80-year-old Yousef and his wife Amna have lived in a shack in the Roshmia Valley since 1956, but now the municipality of Haifa wants to demolish it to build a road.

But there will also be fiction films in the same section.

After the success of his second feature They Are the Dogs, Moroccan director Hicham Lasri is back with his third feature The Sea is Behind. In the film, Tariq lives in a land without colour, where water is contaminated by a strange phenomenon of 'water bugs'. He wears make-up and dresses up as a woman, and dances on a cart that is drawn by a dying horse. One day, Tarik’s horse Larbi stops in the middle of a procession and refuses to take another step forward.

In Khalil el Mozayen's Sara 2014 (UAE and Palestine), a screenwriter and a director are working on a film about Sara, a Palestinian girl in one of Gaza’s refugee camps, who is a victim of an “honour killing”. The Palestinian director's 2012 creative documentary Gaza 36 mm, supported by DOCmed and made with Gazan filmmaking brothers Arab and Tarzan Nasser, toured Arab and European film festivals. He is also credited with co-writing the Nasser brother's Cannes-nominated short Condom Lead.

Still in the same section, Egyptian veteran director Daoud Abdel Sayed (Kit Kat, Land of Fear) returns with his first film since Messages from the Sea. In Out of the Ordinary (Egypt), when Yehia’s scientific investigation of the paranormal yields nothing, he takes a forced vacation by the sea. Slowly, he starts to believe he’s stumbled across the magic he has sought for so long.

Algerian director Yacine Mohamed Benelhadj is to screen I'm Dead (UAE, Algeria).When his son asks for a gorilla mask to participate in a school play, Omar, who cannot afford it, decides to steal a car. But it belongs to an underground killer. A hunt begins.

Festival-goers will also be able to see British-born Moroccan-Iraqi director Tala Hadid's The Narrow Frame of Midnight, starring Egyptian-British actor Khalid Abdalla (The Kite Runner, as himself in The Square). First screened this summer in Toronto, the film follows a determined young orphan Aïcha, who finds herself at the mercy of Abbas, a petty criminal, and his girlfriend, Nadia. They cross paths with Zacaria, a European born Moroccan/Iraqi writer, who has left everything behind - including a troubled relationship with a teacher, Judith - to search for his missing brother. The group embarks on a journey that will lead them from Morocco, to Istanbul, across the plains of Kurdistan and beyond.

Yemeni director Khadija al Salami's I Am Nojoom, Aged 10 and Divorced (UAE, France and Yemen)follows ten-year-old Nojoom as she seeks divorce from a 30-year-old man. The story seems heavily inspired by that of Nojood Ali, who in 2008 made international headlines for obtaining a divorce from her husband aged only 10. Her story, turned into the book I am Nojood, Aged 10 and Divorced, shed light on child marriage in Yemen and the lack of any national law to set a minimum age for marriage. The film's cinematographer is Victor Credi, who previously worked on Winter of Discontent.

Finally, in Kurdish-Norwegian director Hisham Zaman's Letter to The King, a group of refugees set out on an excursion to Oslo, Norway. The 83-year-old among them is determined to deliver a letter to the king.


Photo: Image from Hazem Elhamwi's From My Syrian Room


Bassem Fayad's Diaries of a Flying Dog -- trailer (Arabic with English subtitles):


Tala Hadid's The Narrow Frame of Midnight -- trailer (in Arabic with English subtitles):



Out of the Ordinary -- trailer (Arabic with English subtitles):


Hisham Zaman's Letter to a King -- trailer (with English subtitles):

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