Arabian Nights at DIFF 2015

Just like every year, the Dubai International Film Festival selects a large number of films from the world to participate in its annual editions. Here on Cinetrotter, we’re going to introduce you to every film officially selected in the festival and follow the daily news of the festival which is going to take place from December 9 to 16, 2015 in UAE.

Here are the 12 selected films for the Arabian Nights category:

DES APACHES (THE APACHES) (Rated 15+) – Drama


Set against the backdrop of the tough neighbourhoods of northern Paris, Franco-Algerian director Nassim Amaouche continues to dwell on his love of the American Western with his family drama, which veers between film noir and realism. It is given heart and soul thanks to its top cast. Here his tangled story (with a drug gang sub-plot) is linked around Samir (played by Amaouche) and his complex relationship with his absentee father.

Country: France
Director: Nassim Amaouche
Scriptwriter: Nassim Amaouche, Guillaume Bréaud
Cinematographer: Céline Bozon
Editor: Julien Lacheray
Cast: Nassim Amaouche, Laetitia Casta, André Dussolier


BLIND SUN (Rated 18+) – Drama & Psychological Thriller

A seaside resort in Greece is plagued by a heavy heat wave. Water is rare and violence is ready to explode. Ashraf, a solitary immigrant, guards a French family’s villa while they are away. In this dry land, crushed by the sun, he is stopped by a policeman for an ID check and thus pushed towards a new adventure.

Countries: Greece & France
Director: Joyce A. Nashawati
Producer: Fenia Cossovitsa, Philippe Akoka, Alain Peyrollaz, Vincent Brancon, Lionel Guedj, Dominique Marzotto
Scriptwriter: Joyce A. Nashawati
Cinematographer: Yorgos Arvanitis
Editor: Sebastien Prangere
Composer: Cedric “pilooski” Marzewski, Pierrot Casanova
Cast: Ziad Bakri, Laurene Brun, Giorgos Gallos, Giannis Stankoglou


DÉGRADÉ (Rated 12+) – Drama

A beauty parlour in the Gaza Strip makes for an intriguing and evocative backdrop of the debut film from Palestinian twin brothers Tarzan and Arab Nasser. Inspired by real events from Gaza in 2007, the film depicts Christine’s Salon, as a kind of haven and a refuge from the outside world; it’s a place where the women talk about hairstyles and husbands, while always in the background is the tense reality of living in Gaza. When gunfire and explosions erupt outside the salon the tone switches and politics and violence finally finds their way into the salon. A fine and smartly made debut film.

Countries: Palestine, France & Qatar
Director: Tarzan Nasser, Arab Nasser

Producer: Rashid Abdelhamid
Scriptwriter: Tarzan Nasser, Arab Nasser
Cinematographer: Eric Devin, Arab Nasser, Tarzan Nasser
Editor: Sophie Reine, Eyas Salman
Composer: Benjamin Grospiron
Cast: Hiam Abbass, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Manal Awad


FATIMA (Rated PG) – Drama & Social

As Europe dwells on the challenges facing immigrants struggling to start a new life in a society that embraces them with less than welcoming arms, Philippe Faucon’s impressively made film may well not be tackling a new subject, but it is still an even-handed and at times very thoughtful film that delves into storylines that dominate current headlines. Set in France, FATIMA is based on the book “Prayer to the Moon”, written by Moroccan Fatima Elayoubi (impressively played by Soria Zeroual), who wrote about her experiences as she followed her husband to Europe in the 1980s and faced a tough new life, eventually channeling her emotions into her writing.

Countries: France & Canada
Director: Philippe Faucon
Producer: Yasmina Nini Faucon, Philippe Faucon, Serge Noël
Screenplay: Philippe Faucon
Cinematographer: Laurent Fenart
Editor: Sophie Mandonnet
Composer: Robert Marcel Lepage
Cast: Kenza Noah Aïche, Soria Zeroual, Zita Hanrot, Chawki Amari


BIL HALAL (HALAL LOVE) (Rated 15+) – Comedy & Drama

Four tragi-comic interconnected stories that follow devout Muslim men and women as they try to manage their love life and desires, without breaking any of their religion’s rules. An absolutely delightful film with endearing performances by the entire cast. The treatment of BIL HALAL was selected for Open Doors in Locarno Film Festival.

Countries: Germany & Lebanon
Director: Assad Fouladkar
Producer: Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul, Sadek Sabbah
Scriptwriter: Assad Fouladkar
Cinematographer: Lutz Reitemeier
Editor: Nadia Ben Rachid
Composer: Amine Bouhafa
Cast: Darine Hamze, Rodrigue Sleiman, Mirna Moukarzel, Zeinab Hind Khadra, Hussein Mokaddem, Ali Sammoury, Fadia Abi Chahine


YA TAYR EL TAYER (THE IDOL) (Rated 12+) – Drama & Music

There may be a familiar rags-to-riches tone to Hany Abu-Assad’s uplifting film, but he manages to make so much more in this film about the real-life story of Palestinian Mohammad Assaf who won Arab Idol in 2013 and became a hero for his country. The film focuses as much on his early days – set against the brutal backdrop of life in Gaza and the illness of his sister – as it does on the challenge Assaf has in trying to take part in the Idol try-outs in Egypt. Once the competition starts, Abu-Assad cleverly balances the feel-good success with the harsh realities of Assaf’s life. It is a beautifully staged and compassionate film – plus there are some lovely songs.

Countries: Palestine, Netherlands, Qatar, UK & UAE
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Producer: Ali Jaafar, Amira Diab
Scriptwriter: Sameh Zoabi, Hany Abu-Assad
Cinematographer: Ehab Assal
Editor: Eyas Salman
Composer: Habib Hanna
Cast: Qais Atallah, Hiba Atallah, Ahmed Qassim, Abd-Elkarim Abu-Barakeh, Tawfeek Barhom, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Eyad Hourani, Ali SulimanAshraf Barhoum



Mousa gets into trouble when he steals the wrong car. What he thought was an Israeli car, turns out to be a load of misfortune, when he discovers a kidnapped Israeli soldier in the trunk. Mousa’s hopes of paying the bribe that will guarantee him an exit visa out of the country dissipate, as he finds himself on the run from Palestinian militias and the Israeli intelligence.

Country: Palestine
Director: Muayad Alayan
Producer: Rami Musa Alayan, Muayad Alayan
Scriptwriter: Rami Musa Alayan, Muayad Alayan
Cinematographer: Muayad Alayan
Editor: Sameer Qumsiyeh
Composer: Nathan Daems
Cast: Sami Metwasi, Maya Abu Alhayyat, Riyad Sliman


MADAME COURAGE (Rated 15+) – Drama

A stark and striking story of a thief and his victim, veteran Algerian filmmaker Merzak Allouache manages to makes an apparently simple story into something more profound. Omar roams the streets looking to steal from passersby, but when he steals a golden pendant from schoolgirl Selma, he starts to develop an obsession for her. The film’s title refers to the drugs Omar takes to bolster his confidence on the streets, but perhaps also links to the women in the film. Shot in almost documentary style, the film is a gritty story, but well performed and constructed.

Countries: Algeria & France
Director: Merzak Allouache
Producer: Merzak Allouache, Antonin Dedet
Scriptwriter: Merzak Allouache
Cinematographer: Olivier Guerbois
Editor: Yann Dedet, Tuong Vi Nguyen Long
Cast: Adlane Djemil, Lamia Bezouaoui


A SYRIAN LOVE STORY (Rated 12+) – Non-Fiction, Drama, Social & War

A moving and provocative non-fiction (that won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sheffield Documentary Festival) that offers a human story set against the backdrop of a country torn apart by war and politics. British filmmaker Sean McAllister follows the marriage of Amer Daoud (who McAllister meets in Syria while on a press trip) and his wife Raghda Hassan. The couple had met while in prison years earlier, and when McAllister arrives on the scene Raghda is back in prison, while Daoud looks after their four sons. The film charts their relationship through the Syrian uprising in 2011, with the family eventually forced to flee to Lebanon and then to France and having to face the question of how they want to live their lives.

Country: UK
Director: Sean McAllister
Producer: Elhum Shakerifar
Cinematographer: Sean McAllister
Editor: Matt Scholes
Composer: Terence Dunn
Cast: Amer Daoud, Raghda Hasan


THE TAINTED VEIL (Rated PG) – Non-Fiction

Whether a veil of the soul, the mind or the body, the layers of the veil in history and the many meanings behind it will be revealed. Women are either judged for wearing the hijab or for not wearing it. The hijab refers to the head covering. In THE TAINTED VEIL, diverse guests debate and extraordinary stories expose the challenges surrounding these ideas. THE TAINTED VEIL has been submitted to the 88th Oscars for consideration.

Country: UAE
Directors: Ovidio Salazar, Mazen Al Khayrat, Nahla Al Fahad
Producer: Alyazia Bint Nahyan
Scriptwriter: Mazen Al Khayrat, Stephenie Dopferah
Cinematographer: Samir Karam
Editor: Faris Khatib, Mazen Al Khayrat, Homam Ghazal
Composer: Albert El Ters
Cast: Amal , Sarah Joseph, Asmaa Abd El-Hamid, Mohamed Saeed Ramadan Al Bouti, Abdul Hakim Murad



Veteran filmmaker Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina’s strikingly made TWILIGHT OF SHADOWS (Algeria’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film for the 2016 Academy Awards), is set against the backdrop of the Algerian War. A determined French commander, who believes Algeria belongs to France, must deal with a soldier who rebels when asked to execute an Algerian freedom fighter. The finale is set in the blistering desert as the soldier seeks to escape. Lakhdar-Hamina is one of the key names in Arab cinema and acclaimed for his epic CHRONICLE OF THE YEARS OF FIRE, which won the Cannes Palme d’Or in 1975.

Country: Algeria
Director: Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina
Producer: Tarek Lakhdar-Hamina, Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina
Scriptwriter: Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina, Malik Lakhdar Hamina
Cinematographer: Alessandro Pesci
Editor: Herve Deluze, Marie Pierre Renaud
Composer: Vangelis
Cast: Samir Boitard, Laurent Hennequin, Nicolas Bridet, Mehdi Tahmi, Merouane Mansouri


YALLAH! UNDERGROUND (Rated 12+) – Non-Fiction & Music

A tour that introduces bands from the underground music scene in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine and Jordan, as well as the bands created by young Arab artists in Europe and America. Music transcends everything to become a message – a symbol of the revolution, perhaps, – and definitely a way for the guitar to replace the rifle. Many musical experiments were born prior to the Arab Spring, in its anticipation, while many others were born either during the protests, or right after…

Countries: Germany, Czech Republic, Egypt, UK, Canada & USA
Director: Farid Eslam
Producer: Nathan Fischer
Scriptwriter: Farid Eslam
Cinematographer: Prokop Soucek
Editor: Jakub Vomacka
Cast: Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, Mohamed Safi, Zeid Hamdan, Shadi Zaqtan, Maii Waleed, Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, Ousso Lotfy, Karim Adel Eissa, Marc Codsi, Mayaline Hage

Check more posts & news on DIFF 2015

Post written by Nadine Asmar

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