Arts & Entertainment

ARAB FILM FESTIVAL

The Arab Film Festival returns to Sydney and promises to delight and educate film festival enthusiasts with a culturally diverse program consisting of nine features and five short films.

Festival co-directors Fadia Abboud and Mouna Zaylah are excited to be bringing these fine films to the big screen.

“This year there were 100 films submitted for screening into the festival and many sourced films as well. An advisory group watched and selected the films and it was difficult to narrow the list down owing to the excellent quality of the films,” explained Zaylah.

“Our program doesn’t have as many films as other film festivals as we want to keep the festival contained. The audience is escalating and we’re building the festival slowly,” said Abboud. “Our films cover current issues and challenge the stereotypes. Contemporary Arab life is brought to Australian audiences of which approximately 45% are non-Arab speaking.”

Ghadi, the festival’s gala opening night film from Lebanon, is the touching story of a towns’ inability to accept a handicapped child in their midst. The third child to music teacher Leba (Geoges Khabbaz) and his wife Lara (Lara Rain), Ghadi sits on the balcony and sings trying to imitate his father.
The neighbours believe Ghadi is possessed by demons, saying his unique singing resembles “loud devilish noises” and sign a petition to have him evicted from the town. Leba devises a plan which not only wins over the neighbours, but also purifies the neighbourhood of their sins and leads them on the path to salvation. This story of intolerance and the need for acceptance thrives on originality and audiences will be mesmerized by the protagonist, a hero who won the heart of a town and went on to become a phenomenon.

From Palestine comes Speed Sisters, a documentary about five young ladies who dared to be different and conquered the social and traditional obstacles to break into car racing, a sport dominated by men. Affectionately known as Palestine’s ‘fast and furious females’, these women compete for the fiercely competitive honours as top female drivers.
In a country where curfews, army patrols and military checkpoints dominate, these women defy the odds to follow their dreams. Containing candid interviews and touching on the hardships and dangers of living in Palestine, this is a most insightful and enjoyable documentary which should captivate racing car enthusiasts.

“I’d expect audiences who come to see our films will be educated and [will] walk away saying ‘wow!’ at the landscapes and the beauty of the Arab countries. Arab people have stories that need to be told and certain films do cut into mainstream cinema,” said Abboud.

“We invite film lovers who want to know more about the contemporary Arab world to come along to the Arab Film Festival – be intrigued and blown away by world class cinema,” concluded Zaylah. (MMo)

August 13-16. Riverside Theatres, Corner Church + Market Streets, Parramatta. $20-$35 (Opening night film, sweets & party). Tickets & Info: arabfilmfestival.com.au

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