April 2019, arsenal cinema

10th ALFILM – Arab Film Festival Berlin


From April 3 to 10, the 10th Arab Film Festival Berlin – ALFILM will be presenting artistically ambitious cinema comprising a selection of current features and documentaries together with shorts and animated works. The films move back and forth between Europe and the Arab World, reflecting on the individual fates of people who live on the margins of society or whose lives have been marked by historical upheaval. Many of the works pose questions about community and change, a blessing and a curse in equal measure. The ALFILM Shorts explore stories of people at turning points, the experimental short films of “lab/p 3 – poetry in motion” were created in collaboration between German and Egyptian directors and poets.

YOMEDDINE (A. B. Shawky, Egypt 2018, 3.4., with guest A. B. Shawky) After his wife dies, Beshay is entirely shattered. Alone and with no one else to turn to, he finally decides to set out in search of his family. He packs up his meagre possessions, loads them on a donkey and leaves the leper colony that he has lived in since his childhood. Crafty Nubian orphan boy Obama decides to join him and they set off together on a journey into the unknown. Yet although Beshay is long since healed, he is covered in scars. The two travel companions defy adversity in search of their roots and a new home. This road movie with an impressive cast of non-professional actors received its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018.

LES BIENHEUREUX (The Blessed, Sofia Djama, France/Belgium 2017, 4.4., with guest Sofia Djama) Algiers, a few years after the end of the civil war: (Nadia Kaci) and Samir (Sami Bouajila) want to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in a bourgeois quarter of the city, yet the drive to the restaurant becomes a sobering confrontation with reality for the middle-class couple, who see how the political ideas of their youth have been betrayed. Along the way, they find their son Fahim and his friends Feriel and Reda in a nocturnal Algiers consumed by ideologies and violence, between pop culture, drugs, and history. Sofia Djama also wrote the script for her debut film, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

LOOK AT ME (Néjib Belkadhi, Tunisia/France/Qatar 2018, 4.4.) Lotfi (Nidhal Saadi) has built up a successful life for himself in France – he runs a hardware store and his beautiful French wife is pregnant. But when he receives a telephone call from his brother in Tunisia he find himself catapulted back into a life long thought left behind. Without any sort of plan, he now must take care of his autistic son Youssef (Idryss Kharroubi), to whom he has had no contact the past seven years. The child is suffering from the loss of his mother and refuses to communicate in any way. Torn between machismo and his desire to build a relationship with his son, Lotfi reinvents himself both as a father and a person.  

CHAOS (Sara Fattahi, Austria/Syria/Lebanon/Qatar 2018, 5.4., with guest Sara Fattahi) Sara Fattahi’s second feature-length film is a poetic reflection on exile, art, and pain that approaches the stories of the three Syrian women in elliptical fashion whose lives have spun off their axes due to the civil war in Syria. A mother cloisters herself in her flat in Damascus following the murder of her son. Another woman flees to Sweden, where she processes her fears and trauma by making collages. The third is the filmmaker herself, who is struggling to find her own place in a foreign culture and enters into an impossible dialogue with Ingeborg Bachmann about war and peace.

ZAGROS (Sahim Omar Khalifa, Belgium 2017, 5.4., with guest Sahim Omar Khalifa) After Havin (Halima Ilter), the pregnant wife of shepherd Zagros (Feyyaz Duman), is accused of adultery by several village residents, she leaves the Kurdish mountains and flees with her daughter to Brussels to stay with relatives there. Convinced of her innocence, Zagros breaks with his traditional family and follows her. He hopes for a new life with wife and daughter in Belgium, but soon doubt and jealousy creep into his heart. This psychograph of an unsettled man won the prize for Best Film at the Gent Film Festival and is the feature-debut of the Kurdish director, who was born in Iraq.

We are premiering the short films created as part of “lab/p 3 – poetry in motion” (TRAUMASÄUME, DÜNENMEER, GESICHTERBRENNEN, THE RIGHT TO FALL APART, SKY, SEA, 6.4., with the directors and writers in attendance). The experimental shorts were developed by writers and filmmakers from Egypt and Germany. Produced by OSTPOL e.V., Leipzig and Fig Leaf Studios, Alexandria, they create a discourse about identity and provide some intriguing glimpses into the film aesthetics and contemporary poetry of both countries. With the support of the Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Goethe-Institut Alexandria, Sächsische Landesanstalt für privaten Rundfunk und neue Medien, Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen. In collaboration with ALFILM – Arabisches Filmfestival Berlin, Bauhaus Universität Weimar, Deutsches Literaturinstitut/Leipzig Universität, and Poetryfilm Kanal Weimar.

SAMOUNI ROAD (Stefano Savona, France/Italy 2018, 6.4., with guest Stefano Savona) How are you supposed to tell your own story? Amal is a little girl and claims she isn’t a good narrator, yet she leads us through the story of her family all the same. The Samounis have been living on the outskirts of Gaza City for generations now, where they manage huge land estates. During Operation “Cast Lead” in 2008/09, 29 members of the family were killed by an Israeli military unit and the Samounis’ houses and fields were destroyed, with even Amal herself initially believed dead. An arduous struggle to rebuild now ensues, not just their own existence, but also their memories and their own stories. Savona reveals the trauma of a family to whom monstrous things happened in subdued observations and piercing animated sequences.

THE SWING (Cyril Aris, Lebanon 2018, 7.4., with guest Cyril Aris) The life of Antoine hangs by a silken thread. On his 90th birthday, the entire family comes together to celebrate the eloquent patriarch, who is still full of the joys of life. Yet Antoine desires nothing more than to see his beloved daughter once again, who he believes has been travelling in South Africa for the last months. Yet none of those present dares to reveal the terrible truth to Antoine for fear of his weak heart giving out. His wife Viviane at his side must conceal her own grief behind a smile and trivial small talk. This sensitive debut film explores the mechanisms of a family and society that don’t allow themselves to grieve due to fear of greater pain.

ERASED,__ASCENT OF THE INVISIBLE (Ghassan Halwani, Lebanon 2018, 7.4., with guest Vartan Avakian) 35 years ago, a man in Beirut was kidnapped and has yet to reappear since then. 10 years ago, his face appeared on the street once again, but was it really the same man? In his debut film, director Halwani uses different artistic and investigative methods to set out on a forensic search for clues, revealing one of the darkest chapters in Lebanese history layer by layer by way of walls, documents, and the city architecture. Looking for the man kidnapped back then whose face still haunts him to this day, he also encounters the spirits of others who “disappeared” and poses questions about truth and accounting for the past today.

EXT.NIGHT (Ahmad Abdalla, Egypt/UAE 2018, 8.4., with guest Ahmad Abdalla) Up-and-coming young director Moe (Karim Kassem) is in the midst of an existential crisis – his film is under-financed, his friends are being arrested, the projects close to his heart are unable to be realized. A taxi ride through Cairo ends up opening his eyes, allowing him to get to know a different side of the city. Together with quick-witted prostitute Toutou (Mona Hala) and bad-tempered taxi driver Mostafa (Sherif El Desouky), he succeeds in stepping out of his bubble, even if he has a hard landing on the asphalt of the giant nocturnal city.

ALFILM Shorts (A WEDDING DAY, SON OF A DANCER, SHEIKH’S WATERMELONS, THE CROSSING, I SIGNED THE PETITION, YASMINA, 8.4., with guest Ameen Nayfeh) The short films reveal the ambivalences of everyday life and in border situations, and the fragility of political and existential securities across a range of genres, countries, and milieus.

PANOPTIC (Rana Eid, Lebanon 2017, 9.4., with guest Rana Eid) Sound designer Rana Eid’s directorial debut is a journey into Beirut’s heart of darkness – an audiovisual exploration of extreme contrasts between history and modernity, glittering surfaces, and the underworld. A letter to her deceased father is an attempt to reconcile herself with the past and her own psychosomatic reactions to the schizophrenic history of the country. From underground prisons, bunkers and hidden prayer rooms, the Babylonian sound of dissonant narratives pushes the surface, into which the letter from a filmmaker attempts to introduce order.  

SOFIA (Meryem Benm’barek, France/Qatar 2018, 9.4.) When young Sofia goes into labor, it goes unnoticed by her family, who are about to close an important business deal intended to secure their social status. She herself has repressed the pregnancy and only cousin Lena stands by her during the inevitable campaign of secrecy, as Moroccan law stipulates imprisonment for sexual relations out of wedlock. Before the scandal can become public knowledge and endanger the standing of Sofia’s family, the father of the baby must now be found and convinced to marry Sofia. Benm’barek’s debut film shines a harsh light on the social and economic living conditions of young men and women in the Morocco of today. (cj)

arsenal cinema: 10th ALFILM – Arab Film Festival Berlin

07:00 pm Cinema 2


Chaos Sara Fattahi
Austria/Syriy/Lebanon/Qatar 2018
DCP OV/EnS 95 min

Followed by a conversation with Sara Fattahi
arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour: Clothes in Motion – Costumes, Styles and Fashion in Film

08:00 pm Cinema 1

Dragon Inn

Dragon Inn King Hu Taiwan 1969
DCP OV/GeS 111 min

arsenal cinema: 10th ALFILM – Arab Film Festival Berlin

09:00 pm Cinema 2


Zagros Sahim Omar Khalifa Belgia 2017
DCP OV/EnS 102 min

Followed by a discussion with Sahim Omar Khalifa