IFFR Gives a Nod to the Arab Spring
24.01.2012 - The 41st edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, which kicks off on the 25th of January and runs till the 5th of February, will host its largest selection of Arab films yet.
The festival will celebrate the first anniversary of the start of the Arab revolutions with a film program entitled, Signals: Power Cut Middle East. The program’s intention is to go ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the revolutions by highlighting films that provide snippets of their ‘backstories.’ In so doing, the program will attempt to show that these revolutions didn’t sprout out of nowhere, but are rooted in sentiments cultivated over the decades. Through this selection of films, the festival organizers are trying to communicate a complex past and present, and an unpredictable and tough future to come. Recognizing the popular sentiment that 2011 was the year of the demonstrator, this program aims to trace his/her formation.
The program spotlights Egypt and Syria in particular through sub-series like the Egyptian Timelines and the Short Syrian Documentaries. The Egyptian Timelines series features films that together provide socio-historical and cultural context to the plethora of images from the streets of Egypt that have flooded television and computer screens over the past year. Examples include Omar Robert Hamilton’s short Maydoum (2010), about a man’s return from abroad to a changing Cairo; Daoud Abdel Sayed’s Kit Kat (Fragment) (1991), which focuses on the lives of Egyptians in the country’s slums; and Hala El-koussy’s In Search of a City (in the Papers of Sein) (2012), which was shot before but edited after the Egyptian Revolution and presents a layered, visual journey through the multi-faceted city of Cairo. El-koussy’s film is a nominee in the Tiger Awards Competition for Short Films.
Syria is represented largely by short documentaries – a nod to Syrian filmmakers’ increasing use of new digital media over the last few years. Featured are the likes of Two Cities and a Prison (2008) by Soudade Kaadan, which follows an experimental theatre project on tour in Syria that explores different forms of violence and challenges traditional social norms; and Hazem Al-hamwi’s Stone Bird (2006), which tells the story of the eccentric Abu Hajar, a man who has chosen a life of isolation to escape the strict protocols of an imposing society. From Lebanon, the program presents, among others, Rania Stephan’s three-act piece The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni, which not only tells the life story of the versatile film star, but also of Egyptian cinema and society.
The program also includes a sub-series entitled Shifting Shores, which presents video art from different Arab countries that grapples with the concepts of memory, identity and change.
In addition, Moroccan director Leila Kilani’s debut feature film On the Edge (2011), which was funded by SANAD and screened at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in 2011, will be shown as part of the IFFR’s Bright Future program, which spotlights talented newcomers to the film industry. The film follows Badia and Imane, two women who make a living by peeling shrimps in Tangier during the day and committing robberies in the evening.
Short films make up an important part of IFFR. Outside of its Signals program and as part of its series Short Stories: Power and Politics, is Ahmed Ghoneimy’s Bahari (2011), which follows a young student through the streets of Bahari, a poor district of Alexandria, and documents the troubles he gets into. Adham El Sherif’s 15-minute documentary A Resident of the City (2011), which presents Cairo through the eyes of a stray dog, will also be a featured short.