As programmer for Alfilm, Claudia Jubeh provides Berliners with both quality Middle Eastern cinema and new perspectives on the Arab world.
Screenings of Arab films here have focused largely on ‘hot topics’, not on the films as works of art.”
Prior to the 2009 founding of Alfilm, the incredible diversity of Arab cinema was all but inaccessible to Berliners. “Any screenings here have largely focused on ‘hot’ topics – women, religion and war – and not on the films as works of art,” says Jubeh, Alfilm’s 38-year-old head of programming. Born in Germany with a Palestinian father, having written her master’s thesis on identity in Palestinian cinema and gone on to produce Arabic-language films like 2016’s Dry Hot Summers, she was aware of the need to broaden Berlin’s perspectives. Together with co-founders Issam Haddad and Fadi Abdelnour, she began a film festival that would showcase the Arab world’s full cinematic output.
Considering the multitude of festivals in Berlin founded and curated by men, it is striking that there is such gender parity at Alfilm, both in the films it screens and behind the scenes (the international team is female-heavy). Against expectations, there is no shortage of films by female filmmakers in the Arab world, and Jubeh ensures that they make up half the programme.
The festival screens around 18 feature-length films, three short film programmes and a side programme which alternates between spotlights and retrospectives. For its ninth edition, to be held this April at Arsenal, FSK, Wolf and City Kino, the team received a record number of over 600 entries.
The 2018 side programme will spotlight Arab masculinities, an interesting choice in the post-#MeToo era. Jubeh explains the decision. “During the refugee crisis, there was a lot of talk about ‘the Arab man’ like it’s some sort of concept, or a strange entity.” She hopes the programme will counter the discourse in Germany that directs attention to what she calls “abject parts of Arab identity.”