Arab Film Festival Australia 2009

The Arab Film Festival Australia 2009 was held at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta - a short walk from our studio. We attended the opening night and spent the whole weekend in the cinema watching feature films, documentaries and shorts.

The festival programme provided a
creative and critical space for representing diverse Arabic-speaking cultures. The festival was a celebration of modern and contemporary Arab cinema and the majority of the films were screened as 'Australian Premiers' offering Australian audiences alternative representations of Arab subjects and narratives.

The festival is managed by Information Cultural Exchange (ICE) an organisation based in Parramatta. 'Greater Western Sydney is home to the largest migrant, refugee and urban Indigenous populations in the country and is Australia’s most culturally diverse region.’ The festival ‘confirms the strong connections between Parramatta’s bold emergence as an up-and-coming city of culture, and the very strong presence of Arab-Australian communities who have made this vibrant city their home, and contribute greatly to its rich cultural life.’

Captain Abu Raed | watch trailer

Captain Abu Raed | Jordan 2007 | 95 min | Dir: Amin Matalqa

This film was selected to open the Arab Film Festival 2009. The lead role was played by Nadim Sawalha who is a Jordanian-born British actor. It is a story about dreams and sacrifice set within the landscape of Jordan. Abu Raed works as a janitor in an airport where he encounters international languages and travellers. The film explores class and social divide through the eyes of a self-educated man who has lost his family. He is a lonely but generous character who begins to tell stories to the children living in his neighbourhood who are curious about the outside world. This enables the children to dream and transforms their harsh realities. This is the first Jordanian feature film to be made in 50 years and the film won the Audience Award at Sundance in 2008.

watch P.H.A.T.W.A video

The Narcicyst | Phatwa | Music Video Premiere | Directed by Hala Alsalman | Canada / Iraq

The political hip hop artist 'The Narcicy
st' (aka Yassin Alsalman) originates from Basra, was born and raised in Dubai and now lives in Montreal, Canada. In this music video, his lyrics respond to the present climate of suspicion and fear generated at airports around the world since the events of 9/11. He references political events such as the invasion of Iraq and current situations such as detainees at Guantanamo. He is also a journalist and peace activist speaking out against the injustices in the world.

Life after the Fall | watch trailer

Life after the Fall | Iraq 2008 | 100 min | Dir: Kasim Abid

The director returns to Baghdad to follow three generations of his family over the course of four years. This is an intimate and personal account documenting the struggles the family face in the changing political climate since the fall of the regime in 2003. The film chronicles the family's optimism after Sadam's downfall and the hopes for the nation to be rebuilt, however this mood changes to a more somber realisation as chaos ensues.

The screening of this film was preceded by an introduction by
Taffy Hany, a classically trained musician, who played the violin and sang an Iraqi folk song for the audience. Originally from the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq, he moved to Australia in the 1970's and settled here.

Recently, Taffy Hany and his son, Don Hany, were introduced as characters in the SBS television
drama 'East West 101'. The real-life father/son relationship is portrayed on screen. In this detective drama, Taffy plays the Iraqi father of Zane Malik, a detective in the Sydney Police Force. Each episode follows a storyline based on the multi-cultural communities living in the city. The series responds to the tensions surrounding race and identity in post 9/11 Sydney.

Huriyya and her Sisters | Australia 2009 | 8 min

This short animation was created by young Muslim women and girls living in western Sydney. Representatives of the group were present on stage as the film was introduced. The group created four characters to represent and explore their experiences of the world - one is a superhero and wants to stop bombs falling on children.

This film was made by young females participating in workshops held in local community centres where they developed visuals, sound and story lines. During the 18-month collaboration, the girls were provided with the opportunity to engage, participate and communicate using a medium which would allow their own stories to be heard. The Australian Human Rights Commission supported this project and the making of this film.

Ein Shams / Eye of the Sun | watch trailer

Egypt | 2008 | 90 min | Dir: Ibrahim El Batout

The film begins with a narrator introducing us to a group of people who's lives are about to cross paths. The story takes place in the forgotten town of Ein Shams on the out skirts of Cairo. A taxi driver reminisces over the 'faded glory of the ancient past'. A doctor investigates the after-effects of depleted Uranium on people and the environment following the Gulf War in 1991. As we follow the story, a family drama emerges through both comic and tragic events. El Batout combines documentary footage with created scenes shot on digital format and later transferred to 35 mm film. It's low budget, grainy sequences add to the nostalgic mood of the film. The poetic nature of the film creates an opportunity to question social conditions and structures to which the people in this district have become accustomed.