September 2020, arsenal cinema

11. ALFILM – Arab Film Festival Berlin – 
Nomad Edition

FREEDOM FIELDS, 2018

Five months later than scheduled, the 11th ALFILM will finally pick up speed again in September – albeit with a changed route and under ongoing pandemic conditions. ALFILM will be travelling light, as a condensed nomadic edition, going from one venue to the next, and as always stopping off at Arsenal. The “Official Selection” films chosen for this special edition tell stories of life (and survival), of people appropriating their own narrative and of the magic of the moving image. A special role is played by women, who are particularly vulnerable in situations of emergency, but also capable of remarkable resilience. This year’s “Spotlight” series, “Resistance is Female,” highlights “female perspectives on war, conflict and other societal states of emergency with films from Syria, Iraq, and Algeria.” Some screenings will be followed by Skype talks with the directors.

FOR SAMA (Waad Al-Kateab/Edward Watts, GB/Syria 2019, 2.9.) Apart from being a deeply moving love letter to her daughter, this Oscar-nominated Syrian documentary is a testament of resistance in Aleppo. Waad Al-Kateab was a young student in 2012 when she, and many other video-activists, started documenting the uprising against the regime in the city, capturing the demonstrations, the bombs, the casualties, the survivors, the friendships and hope. She also fell in love with Hamza, a doctor, and became pregnant. Her daughter was born in 2016 but despite this she continued to film, for Sama. This is an unsparingly open and intimate insight into the director's life and a world torn between courage and despair.    

THE JOURNEY (Mohamed Al-Daradji, Iraq/Canada/GB/F/Qatar/NL 2017, 3.9.) Baghdad 2006: It is the day of the grand re-opening of a train station. Sara's (Zahraa Ghandour) plans are thwarted by the opportunistic businessman Salam. Suddenly the two of them find themselves on the tracks with a bomb and a baby. Iraq's multi-faceted society after the US invasion is vividly portrayed from the perspective of a female suicide bomber.   

FREEDOM FIELDS (Naziha Arebi, GB/Libya 2018, 4.9.) This film focuses on three female friends and their women's football team. The director accompanied them over a period of five years, capturing their euphoria about the revolution in 2011, then witnessing their first football successes and the subsequent sociopolitical chaos. How can a woman combine a desire for children with the desire to pursue a career in football, particularly in a country riven by civil war where there is very little space for individual development? Arebi's stirring portrait celebrates three strong individuals.

YOU WILL DIE AT TWENTY (Amjad Abu Alala, Sudan/F/Egypt/D/Norway/Qatar 2019, 5.9.) Shortly after Muzamil was born, a holy man predicted that he would die at 20. Ever since, he has been waiting on the banks of the Nile for death to take him. He has little zest for life until he meets Suleiman, who gives him a taste of the magic of cinema and freedom. Based on a short story by the Sudanese writer Hammour Ziada, this atmospheric feature-length debut won the best debut award at last year's Venice Film Festival.

TALKING ABOUT TREES (Suhaib Gasmelbari, F/Sudan/Chad/G/Qatar 2019, 5.9.) Suliman Elnour and his three fellow members of the ‘Sudanese Film Club’ live and breathe for the cinema. Having studied film in Cairo, Moscow and Potsdam in the 1960s and 70s, today they dream of running their own cinema, perhaps one that shut down 30 years ago. However, the jungle of bureaucracy and the secret services do not facilitate their task. Gasmelbari's multi-faceted debut is a fascinating and intimate portrait of Sudan, which uses wonderful visuals and moments to depict the friendship, unshakeable wit and optimism of the protagonists.

SCREWDRIVER (Bassam Jarbawi, Palestine/USA/Qatar 2018, 6.9.) The teenagers Ziad (Ziad Bakri) and Ramzi have been best friends since childhood. They are also the best basketball players in al-Amari Refugee Camp team. After Ramzi is killed in crossfire, Ziad lands in an Israeli jail. He is released 15 years later and celebrated as a hero of the resistance. But he cannot get used to his new life and thinks that he has betrayed his friend. Plagued by hallucinations and tantrums, he starts to lose control. Jarbawi integrated his own experiences as a photographer in al-Amari during the Second Intifada into his feature-length debut.

FERTILE MEMORY (Michel Khleifi, Belgium/FRG/Palestine 1980, 7.9) The first Palestinian film to be shot on both sides of the "Green Line", this is a portrait of two very different women who have to assert themselves in very complicated situations: Roumia Farah Hatoum, an elderly widow from near Nazareth, and Sahar Khalifeh, a young writer and intellectual in Ramallah. Khleifi unfolds a poetic picture of female resistance against the occupation but also patriarchal structures. Artfully assembled by the Tunisian filmmaker Moufida Tlatli, FERTILE MEMORY is considered to be the initiation work of Palestinian cinema. We will screen the restored version that was completed in 2019.

THE WAY HOME (Wael Kadlo, Syria/Lebanon 2018, 8.9.) A reunion between Wael and his mother turns sour when he refers to his grandmother as his mother. After all, he did not grow up with his biological mother and only met his father at the age of five. Years later, as he grows closer to his mother, the carefully constructed family relations break down and old wounds and feelings of guilt resurface. This impressive and intimate insight into a Damascus family was made possible because of the sensitivity of the director/son, who opens up to the stories of others in order to understand his own. The dominance of the family narrative is echoed by the oppression of the political system against which Wael's generation ultimately rebels.

ALFILM SHORTS (GIVE UP THE GHOST, ROUJOULA, ALL COME FROM DUST, SUNDAY MARKET: TRIPOLI, BROTHERHOOD, 9.9.) The lives of these films' protagonists are shaped by their alienation from society, work, home and family. The shorts are visually-strong meditations about challenges, coincidences and common destinies.

UNDERDOWN (Sarah Kaskas, Lebanon/Qatar/G 2018, 10.9.) The radio is full of negative news and Beirut is a swamp, which drags those who are already at the bottom even further down: for example, the taxi driver Abu Hassam who lives in his car, the sad Samya who wants to save her mother's eyesight or the homeless Syrian boy Ali. Mired in poverty and drugs, they fight to find a spark of hope, love and friendship amid all the hopelessness. Kaskas approaches her protagonists as equals and lends a voice to the marginalized of society. (cj)

With support from the Senate Department for Culture and Europe, in cooperation with the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation and the Qattan Foundation.

arsenal cinema: 11. ALFILM – Arab Film Festival Berlin – 
Nomad Edition

08:00 pm Cinema 1


Screwdriver

Screwdriver Bassam Jarbawi
Palestine/USAQatar 2018
DCP OV/EnS 108 min