Arab Film Fest offers award-winning lineup of rare films

DEARBORN – The 2009 Arab Film Festival at the Arab American National Museum Dec. 3 through 5 presents a wide-ranging selection of feature-length and short films made by Arabs and Arab Americans.

The fifth annual festival opens with two short films about women in Palestine – the 2009 documentary “Thorns and Silk” and the 3-D animation “Fatenah.” It continues with an official selection from the 2008 Cannes Film Festival that also received 2008 Academy Award consideration, “Salt of This Sea,” the feature-film directorial debut of noted poet/filmmaker Annemarie Jacir, starring poet/actress Suheir Hammad.

The festival closes with the new documentary “Garbage Dreams,” the story of the Zaballeen or “garbage people” of Cairo who recycle trash in order to survive. “Garbage Dreams” caught the attention of former Vice President Al Gore, who honored the film with his REEL Current Award at this year’s Nashville Film Festival. It also won awards at festivals this year in Phoenix, Vail and Bermuda.

Detroit-area director Sam Kadi will lead a question and answer session with festival audiences following the screening of his short film “Raised Alone” Dec. 5. Kadi was the first Michigan-based director to be granted a 43 percent tax rebate on production costs by the state of Michigan under its film tax incentive program.

Among the other performers featured in the films are Algerian TV star Biyouna (“Paloma Delight” Dec. 4), Tunisian actress Hend Sabri (“Rise and Shine” Dec. 5) and Hiam Abbass (“The Visitor” and “The Lemon Tree”) who costars in the war drama “Dawn of the World” Dec. 5.

The festive opening night reception at 6 p.m. Dec. 3, is a benefit for the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. A breast cancer survivor will speak prior to that evening’s screening of “Fatenah,” in which cancer plays a role.

The reception features a strolling halal dinner under the dome in the museum’s Community Courtyard, plus admission to the screening of “Fatenah” and “Thorns and Silk.”

Single “package” tickets (two films each) are $6 for AANM members and $8 nonmembers. Tickets for the opening night reception are $14 for members and $16 for nonmembers. A weekend pass is $25 for members and $35 for nonmembers, which includes a one-year museum membership. Members can get a pass plus a one-year extension of their membership for $35. weekend passes do not include admission to the reception.

The museum documents, preserves, celebrates, and educates the public on the history, life, culture and contributions of Arab Americans. It serves as a resource to enhance knowledge and understanding about Arab Americans and their presence in this country. The museum is a project of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, a Dearborn-based nonprofit human services and cultural organization. For more information go to www.arabamericanmuseum.org and www.accesscommunity.org.

The museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The museum is at 13624 Michigan Ave. Call 313.582.2266 for further information.

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2009 Arab Film Festival Schedule
Arab American National Museum

December 3
Opening Night Reception, 6-7 p.m. — Includes strolling halal dinner under the dome in the Community Courtyard, plus Package A films. Partial proceeds benefit the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. Sponsored by Haifa Falafel and Masri Sweets. Requires a separate ticket; see prices below.

Package A
7 p.m.
Thorns and Silk, 7 p.m. — This 30-minute documentary examines the lives of four women in Palestine’s West Bank, each of whom work in a male-dominated field. A wedding filmmaker, a taxi driver, a police trainee and a delivery truck driver all break from tradition to provide for themselves and their families. Arabic with English subtitles.

Brief remarks by a survivor of breast cancer, 7:30 p.m.

Fatenah, 7:40 p.m. — Fatenah, a Palestinian woman in the Gaza Strip, wishes only for consolation in her dire living situation. But when she discovers a lump near her breast, she will start a journey of torment, loss and pain, and will struggle to save her dreams from being shattered by the injustice and cruelty that surrounds her world. 3-D animation. Arabic with English subtitles.

December 4
Package B

6 p.m.
Once Upon a Piano, 6 p.m. — Throughout his gloomy life, only one thing could pull Salem out of his despair: the beautiful girl playing piano in the next building. When an old friend comes to town with a tempting job offer abroad, Salem feels compelled to find a way to meet the girl. Arabic with English subtitles.

Paloma Delight (Delice Paloma), 6:20 p.m. — When it comes to surviving in today’s Algeria, no scam is too daunting for the woman who has adopted her country’s name – Madame Aldjeria (Algerian TV star Biyouna). If they’re pretty and lacking in principles, her recruits can make a career for themselves. The latest of these, Paloma, is quite a hit, especially with Riyad, Madame Aldjeria’s son. But the purchase of Caracalla Springs, the dream that should allow Aldjeria’s clan to start a new life, proves to be one scam too many. Arabic with English subtitles.

Package C
High Heels (Kaab Aali), 8:35 p.m. — Nawal, a recently widowed social snob, discovers that her husband left her nothing but an empty bank account and a bad reputation. She is convinced that his affair with his young mistress led them to bankruptcy, but she cannot prove it to her daughter. As the gossip spreads, the mistress shows up at the funeral and invites more scandal. Arabic with English subtitles.

Salt of This Sea (Milh Hadha Al-Bahr), 8:55 p.m. — Soraya (Suheir Hammad), born in Brooklyn in a working class community of Palestinian refugees, discovers that her grandfather’s savings were frozen in a bank account in Jaffa when he was exiled in 1948. Stubborn, passionate and determined to reclaim what is hers, she fulfills her lifelong dream of returning to Palestine. Feature-film directorial debut of Annemarie Jacir. In English and Arabic with English subtitles.

December 5
Package D
6 p.m.
Rise and Shine, 6 p.m. — As she frantically searches for the key to her apartment to start a busy day, a young wife and mother (Tunisian actress Hend Sabri) expresses her feelings of entrapment in her domestic life and social role. Arabic with English subtitles.

Dawn of the World (L’aube du monde), 6:10 p.m. — Mastour and Zahra, two young Marsh Arabs, have grown up at the delta of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in southern Iraq. Shortly after their marriage, Mastour and Zahra are forced to separate when the Gulf War breaks out. On the battlefield, Mastour befriends Riad, a young soldier from Baghdad. Mortally wounded, Mastour makes Riad promise to protect Zahra when the war is over. Riad must then do the impossible and make his way in a hostile new environment. Co-starring Hiam Abbass (“The Lemon Tree” and “The Visitor”). Arabic with English subtitles.

Package E
Raised Alone, 7:35 p.m. — Murad Bandley prioritizes financial security over raising his son Adam. Now a gifted violinist, Adam Bandley performs his world-renowned solo, bestowing a glimpse of his childhood attempt at reconciliation. English.

Discussion led by director Sam Kadi, 8:05 p.m.

Garbage Dreams, 8:25 p.m. — Adham, Osama and Nabil are three teenaged boys born into the trash trade in the world’s largest garbage village. Located on the outskirts of Cairo, the Mokattam village is home to 60,000 Zaballeen, Egypt’s “garbage people.” When their community is suddenly faced with the globalization of their trade, each boy is forced to make choices that will impact his life and the future of his community. Directorial debut of Mai Iskander, who also wrote and produced. Arabic with English subtitles.

Festival schedule is subject to change.

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