As I Open My Eyes
Fully grasping the diversity of communities and identities in the Arabic world requires the combined minds of 20 experts from FU and perhaps a calendar’s worth of reading. But you can get a glimpse during the seventh cycle of Berlin’s Arabic Film Festival (ALfilm), featuring 51 screenings of shorts, full-length features and documentaries and even a panel discussion on Jewish-Arab identity.
Kicking off the festival at Arsenal on Wednesday, April 6, Tunisian debut director Leyla Bouzid’s coming-of-age drama As I Open My Eyes introduces us to 18-year-old indie rock singer Farah – played by first-time actress and real-life singer Baya Medhaffer, who’ll be present at the screening. Her rebellion from her mother through music – and the price she pays for it – refreshingly challenges the usual stereotypes, maybe because it’s above all a woman’s film, sketching out a powerful mother-daughter relationship you seldom see in Arab (and even Western) cinema.
In the documentary selection, A Present From the Past sees Egyptian father travel with his daughter to requite his lost love and break tradition, and Coma gives insight on female roles through three generations of Syrian women addressing their demons, religion and trauma.
The short film programme spans genres – one to catch is sci-fi short "In the Future, They Ate From the Finest Porcelain", whose lonely, dystopian imagery – crockery, a dead sister and the line “they only see us when we rebel”– is compelling if baffling.
A healthy dose of premieres includes the promising The Rooftops from veteran Algerian filmmaker Merzak Allouache, but the resurfaced older films in the Spotlight programme aren’t to be overlooked either. Eight years apart, historical retelling Where Are You Going Moshé and black-and-white semi-comedy Theft, Love and Other Entanglements both tackle the Palestinian-Israeli relationship, while Cannes hit Much Loved which depicts the underworld of prostitution in Marrakesh, triggered a huge shitstorm at home (with lead actor Loubna Abidar having to flee for France following attacks).
Full programme, including times, dates and languages, at www.alfilm.de.
ARABIC FILM FESTIVAL, Apr 6-13 | various venues, check website for details