Third Annual Middle Eastern film festival Oct. 25-Nov. 29

Monday, October 17, 2011

By Kurt Anthony Krug

The HFCC Arab Cultural Studies Program and the Council of American Cultures will host 'Middle Eastern Visions III,' the third annual fall film festival running from Tuesday, Oct. 25, to Tuesday, Nov. 29. This film festival takes place in HFCC's Berry Auditorium located in the Andrew A. Mazzara Administrative Services and Conference Center on the main campus.

The film festival showcases seven new films, beginning with 'Little Town of Bethlehem' from 11:10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25. The story of the film began when producer Matt Green began traveling the world in search of engaging personal dramas. He connected with an Israeli Jew, a Palestinian Muslim and a Palestinian Christian, all of whom were working toward nonviolent resolution to the volatile Israel-Palestine conflict. Filmed on location in the West Bank, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the film follows the three protagonists on a journey in which they are determined to employ non-violence to address the often brutal conflict.

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, 'Maria's Grotto' will be shown from 12:40 to 2 p.m. In parts of Palestine, any woman who has sexual relations outside marriage or who is suspected of an extra-marital affair is considered to have dishonored her family, which is punishable by death.  Palestinian filmmaker Buthina Khoury weaves together the stories of women who have faced such persecution and highlights the determination of a young female activist striving to expose these heinous crimes.

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 'Passion' will be shown from 11:10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Director Mohamed Malas' riveting drama examines the circumstances and characters involved in a 'crime of honor.'  When Imane becomes enraptured by the songs of Umm Kulthum, her jealous husband notices the change in her demeanor and assumes she has fallen in love with another man.  More than a simple re-creation of the actual events upon which the film is based, 'Passion' examines the nature of these so-called 'crimes of honor,' exposing the scars such actions leave on their survivors and society as a whole.

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, 'The Kingdom of Women' will be shown from 11:10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. The story of the women of the Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp between 1982 and 1984 is an important chapter in the history of Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon.  After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the camp was destroyed and its men were imprisoned. This film highlights the organizing spirit of the community's women during this period by highlighting how they were able to rebuild the camp, as well as protect and provide for their families while their men were held captive. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, 'Film Essay on the Euphrates Dam' will be shown from 11:10 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. In 1970, director Omar Amiralay supported President Hafez-Al-Assad’s efforts to modernize Syria by dedicating his first documentary to the construction of the impressive new Euphrates Dam that was to be the pride of the Baath party. This short film in the tradition of French cinema realite’ streamlines this story through a juxtaposition of images that relate people to their land. The result is a visually dynamic narration conveyed essentially by pictures.

Also on Nov. 22, 'Flood in Baath Country' will be shown immediately after from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The collapse of the Zayzum Dam 30 years ago killed dozens of people and ruined thousands of lives. The revelation of an official report that had predicted the dam's fate inspired the creation of this film, which examines the disaster's devastating impact on a Syrian village. With its powerful and daring critique of Syria's political regime and the tribal politics that hold it together, 'Flood in Baath Country' foreshadows the wave of democracy currently sweeping the Arab world, where citizens have risen up to demand a fundamental change in their governments.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, 'Wanderers of the Desert' will be shown from 12:40 to 2:15 p.m. When a young teacher arrives for a position at an isolated school in the heart of the shimmering desert, mysterious events begin to unfold: Legendary figures materialize out of the village well and from the desert itself; groups of children hurry through a labyrinth of underground corridors; villagers gather around a ship that has mysteriously washed up in the desert sand; and the young men of the village disappear one by one and never return. With a richly expressive visual style and superb use of color, director Nacer Khemir shows how legend, tradition and fate hang heavily over this community, and how nothing is ever quite what it seems.

For further information on 'Middle Eastern Visions III,' please contact Dr. Michael Daher, director of the Arab Cultural Studies program, at (313) 845-6457 or via email at mdaher@hfcc.edu.