Arab cinema ready for renaissance

Arab films have been nominated for awards across the world in the past 12 months, but mainstream cinemas in London or New York have not been showing them.

Arab cinema ready for renaissance

Arab films have been nominated for awardsacross the world in the past 12 months, but mainstream cinemas in London or New York have not been showing them.

Now, the BritishAcademy of Film and TelevisionArts has backed an Arab cinema weekend in Londonwith the belief that such films can change Western perspectives of the Middle East.

Bafta's Arab Cinema Weekend, which openedon Friday, will screen some of the region's most powerful films from the pastyear.

Mariayah Kaderbhai, Bafta events producer,said that productions coming out of the Arab World are challenging stereotypesof a region thought to breed war and terrorists.

Kaderbhai said: "Cinema reflectsthe society it lives in, and films can change the world.

"It's quite timely at this point,it's important to show a lot of reflections of the Middle East."

Mainstream appeal

Organisers of the event have said that ifArab Cinema Weekend wants to reshape opinions, it must reach beyond thetraditional audience of the Arab diaspora in London.

One such film with resonance is Oscarnominated Days of Glory - director Rachid Bouchareb's depiction of France's forgotten soldiers, plucked from thecolonies to fight in two world wars and in Vietnam.

The film tackles the issue ofdiscrimination against foreign-born war veterans who were paid smaller pensionsthan those veterans born in France.

It has had a tangible impact for hundredsof thousands of people. After seeing the film, the wife of Jacques Chirac, theFrench president, was said to be in tears.

The day the film opened in France, Chiracaddressed his nation and announced a change in policy regarding veterans whohad fought in former French colonies.

For Bouchareb, a French citizen ofAlgerian descent, hearing those words was even more important than having oneof the country's biggest films of the year.

"When you start a project like this,you feel you are not alone," he said.

"I feel when we shoot a movie, wehave a strong power to change something."

Suicide bombers

But it is the film Paradise Now, achaotic day in the life of would-be Palestinian suicide bombers, which has beentouted as the big hit for the resurgence of Arab cinema.

It won a Golden Globe in 2006 and wasnominated for the best Foreign Film Oscar.

It also provoked a debate aboutPalestinian life under Israeli military and administrative occupation.Essential viewing inside Israel,the film struggled to get wide distribution in the US.


Israel faced abacklash after calling for it to be reclassified at the Oscars – they wereangry the film was representing 'Palestine',because Palestine,they said, was not a county.

Paradise Now has been pulled from the Arab Cinema Weekend's schedule, to make roomfor other success stories which haven't received such widespread coverage inthe West.

Cairean taboos

Based on a best-selling Egyptian novel,and one of the most expensive Arab films ever produced, YacoubianBuilding tackles social taboossuch as homosexuality, drugs and government corruption in Cairo.

Bafta also has high hopes for Ahlaam, which uses the symbolism of apsychiatric asylum to tell the story of post-invasion Baghdad.

The Iraqi director behind the film,Mohamed Al-Daradji, said it was his way of reclaiming a narrative hijacked byWestern journalists.

"It is time for us to tell ourmessage, send our voice as Arab filmmakers, and tell a different image, animage that hasn't been seen because when people see my film they will be justin shock, they see how the reality is different," he told Al Jazeera.

Government obstacles

Nevertheless, until Arab cinema escapesthe final cut of government censors, Arab filmmakers are going to have to relyon Western institutions, like Bafta.

Film distributors have been touring thefestival circuit, and by devoting a weekend to the Arab world, Bafta isconfident it will raise Arab cinema's profile.

Kaderbhai said: "Because BAFTA isscreening it, it adds kudos to it."

Al-Daradji believes Arab governments mustnot act as impediments to the resurgence of regional films with powerfulsocio-political messages.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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