Three nights of Arab films
Center for Czech-Arab dialogue presents festival of recent works from North Africa, Middle East
Posted: October 17, 2013
Egyptian filmmaker Mohamad Diab's film '678,' which deals with the taboo of sexual harassment, is one of six to be screened during the Arab Film Days festival.
In October 2012, Palestinian Film Days presented the capital's cinephiles with six films that took a closer look at the inhabitants of Israel's occupied territories - people whose day-to-day lives are so often overlooked in the media's rush to cover the latest tensions. Organized by the Czech-Arab Center for Cultural Dialogue (INSAAN) and the Prague branch of the human rights organization The Heinrich Böll Foundation, the four-day festival - the first of its kind to be held in Prague - attracted noted Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman, who even took to the stage in a memorable appearance after his film was screened to answer a few questions and sing the praises of Moravian wine.
This year, INSAAN has turned its focus to a wider swath of the region, and over three days it screens two films a day that have their roots in the Arab world.
The event, titled "Arab Film Days," has sought out important films that tackle many social taboos in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, and each of these works will be screened once at the Světozor cinema's big hall.
"They also reflect in a sensitive, insider's way the tensions between modernity and tradition, between generations and between different social groups that characterize the region," says Šádí Shanaáh, founder of INSAAN. "[These films] probe the Arab societies deeper than short news clips, which only confuse or scare us."
When: Oct. 18-20
Where: Světozor cinema
Tickets: 90 Kč
Referring to the turmoil of the Arab Spring, the festival announced in a press released that "instead of focusing on the revolutionary events in the squares and in the streets, [the movies] reveal underlying and deep-rooted social and political problems that led to the Arab awakening." In other words, the festival examines the communities that participated in the recent political transformation of the Arab world instead of merely putting onscreen the events themselves.
Produced in countries from Morocco to Lebanon, with half of them directed by Egyptian filmmakers, the works cover a wide range of cultures and vividly demonstrate the variety of societies in the Arab world. Shanaáh says being Arab is not tied to a skin color or a religion but is rather an identity that is assumed by people themselves rather than one assigned to them. "I am hesitant to use the simplification 'Arab culture,' but in terms of film we can speak of movies whose primary language is Arabic."
One of the most talked-about films from the region currently shown at festivals, the Saudi film Wadjda, will unfortunately not be shown at the festival, despite Shanaáh's efforts to get a copy, but he says he hopes to show it in the future, along with films from the golden era of Egyptian cinema.
Wadjda recently received global attention not only for being the first film to be made entirely inside the border of the kingdom but also for being made by a woman, Haifaa al-Mansour.
Currently, at Světozor and other independent cinemas in Prague, you can still see one of the most critically awarded Palestinian films in recent memory, Omar, which was screened at the Cannes and Karlovy Vary film festivals this year. Containing both Hebrew and Arabic dialogue, the film is unfortunately released only with Czech subtitles.
All the films shown at the Arab Film Days will, however, have both Czech and English subtitles, and a full program with synopses is available on INSAAN's and Světozor's websites.
André Crous can be reached at