Middle East

A Dragon Arrives! (2016)
Mani Haghighi
Iran
108′
An orange Chevrolet Impala drives across a cemetery towards an abandoned shipwreck in the middle of a desert landscape. It is the 22nd of January, 1965. The day before, the Iranian prime minister was shot dead in front of the parliament building. Inside the wreck, a banished political prisoner has hung himself. The walls are covered in diary entries, literary quotes and strange symbols. Can they help Police Inspector Babak Hafizi in his investigations? Will they shed any light on why there is always an earthquake whenever somebody is buried in this desert cemetery? Assisted by a sound engineer and a geologist, Hafizi begins his investigations on the ancient island of Qeshm in the Persian Gulf. Fifty years later, their entire evidence, along with intelligence tape recordings, are found in a box, the contents of which attest to the fact that the inspector and his colleagues were arrested. But why? In his new film, Mani Haghighi once again creates a grotesquely absurd experimental set-up. His playful reenactment of mysterious events revolves around a real-life episode - but also imagines a truth of its own.
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A Separation (2011)
Asghar Farhadi
Iran
123′
Simin wants to leave Iran with her husband Nader and daughter Termeh. She has already made all the necessary arrangements. Nader, however, is having second thoughts. He is worried about leaving behind his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. For this reason he decides to call off the trip altogether. As a result of Nader’s decision, Simin decides to sue for divorce at the family court. When her request is rejected, however, she refuses to live with Nader, moving instead into her parents’ home. Termeh decides to stay with her father, hoping that her mother will soon come back to live with them.Nader finds it difficult to cope with the new situation - not least because it turns out to be so time-consuming. And so he hires a young woman named Razieh to look after his father. This young woman is pregnant and has accepted the job without her husband’s knowledge. One day, Nader arrives home to find that not only has his father been left alone, he has also been tied to a table! When Razieh returns, a blazing row ensues, the tragic consequences of which not only shatter Nader’s life, but also the image his daughter Termeh has of her father.
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About Elly (2009)
Asghar Farhadi
Iran
112′
After having spent many years in Germany, Ahmad returns to his native Iran for a holiday. His friends from his student days organise a three-day break on the Caspian Sea. One of the party, a fun-loving woman named Sepideh takes the matter in hand. Unbeknown to the rest of the group, she has also invited a young woman named Elly, who is a nursery school teacher at her daughter’s kindergarten. Ahmad has just emerged from an unhappy marriage and is now divorced from his German wife. He would very much like to begin a new life with an Iranian woman. His friends are aware of his desire and it gradually dawns on them that this is why Sepideh has asked Elly to accompany them on their trip. The others all begin to lavish their attentions on Elly, singing her prai - ses unequivocally. But then, on the second day of their holiday, something happens and Elly disappears. All at once their light-hearted mood evaporates. The friends begin to agonise about the whys and wherefores of Elly’s disappearance, bringing to an abrupt end the sense of harmony that once pervaded their get-together. They contact Elly’s parents, but when they learn that they have no news of Elly’s whereabouts their anxiety begins to turn into panic. Carefully, the friends begin to go over the conversations of the previous day and their phone calls to Elly’s relatives, trying to identify a moment that could give them a lead. Finally, they blame Sepideh for having invited Elly in the first place and ruining their holiday. During the course of just two days, their opinion of Elly has turned about face. Until, on the last day of their holiday, the truth emerges.
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Ajami (2009)
Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani
Israel
115′
Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood is a melting pot of cultures and conflicting views among jews, muslims and christians. Back and forth in time, and through the eyes of various characters, we witness how impossible the situation actually is …
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Al Wadi - The valley (2014)
Ghassan Salhab
Lebanon
134′
Wandering aimlessly after losing his memory in a car accident, a man is taken in by the inhabitants of a farm in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, whose secret business is the drugs they manufacture in a laboratory on the closely guarded property. The presence of this nameless stranger has consequences for the clandestine community. Little separates beauty and horror here. A latent sense of danger pervades the vast swathes of sublime landscape. A catastrophe looms. Tensions also rise in the cramped quarters of the house. The identity of the man without a past becomes an increasing issue as doubts regarding his amnesia rear their head. Is he a doctor or a mechanic? An angel or a spy? Like a blank page, he lends himself to fantasies of all kinds and ultimately becomes a prisoner. At once concrete and otherworldly, with a powerful soundtrack and images of great intensity, the film shows a set of melancholy existences on the eve of the apocalypse. Alongside radio news reports on current political crises, it leaves ample room for poetry, painting and a love song, and thus questions the status of art in times of terror and war, that is, in the here and now.
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Barakah Meets Barakah (2016)
Mahmoud Sabbagh
Saudi Arabia
88′
If you were to ask a group of film experts which country is currently the least appropriate setting for a hilarious, truly wacky romantic comedy, the chances are that Saudi Arabia would come out on top. But their guesses would be wrong, as Barakah yoqabil Barakah provides more than enough evidence to the contrary. He’s a municipal civil servant from Jeddah whose origins are humble to say the least, while she’s a wild beauty, the adopted daughter of a rich couple whose marriage has suffered due to their lack of biological children. He’s also an amateur actor in a theatre company rehearsing a production of "Hamlet", while she functions as a crowd-puller for her stylish adoptive mother’s boutique and runs her own boisterous, widely-seen vlog. Fate brings them together - in an environment hostile to dating of any kind. But the two of them show breathtaking ingenuity to circumvent the system of tradition, etiquette and religious police - with the crucial help of a quirky midwife and a pink push up bra. Barakah yoqabil Barakah is a film for anyone who’s always wanted to know just what else is going on in Saudi Arabia
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Capharnaüm (2018)
Nadine Labaki
Lebanon
126′
In Lebanon, many parents can simply not afford to have their children officially registered. As a result, these undocumented kids do not exist in the eyes of the state and have no rights. That is the fate of young Zain. But Zain is a fighter: even at his young age, he is already supporting his family with various odd jobs. When Zain's parents plan to marry off his eleven-year-old sister Sahar, Zain does everything in his power to stop them.
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Downpour (1972)
Bahram Beyzaie
Iran
130′
Bahram Beyzaie’s debut feature about a well-meaning schoolteacher in Tehran who's embattled by changes of fortune, was enormously successful in its time, but had fallen out of view in post-revolutionary Iran. This version presents the film as restored in 2011 by the World Cinema Foundation at Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna/L’immagine Ritrovata laboratory, with the involvement of Bahram Beyzaie himself.
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Longing (2017)
Savi Gabizon
Israel
105′
Ariel, a well-off, childless man, gets a phone call from his college girlfriend. She needs to tell him a couple of very surprising things: first, when they broke up twenty years ago, she was pregnant and went on to have a lovely boy. The second thing will change his life forever. This is a journey that creates laboratory-like conditions to explore the hidden aspects of parenthood beyond giving and responsibility.
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Malaria (2016)
Parviz Shahbazi
Iran
90′
A young girl informs her father she’s been kidnapped and asks him to bring the ransom money. Panicked, her father and brothers go to Tehran to look for her. They are unaware, however, that the girl has in fact eloped with her boyfriend and now spends her time in the company of a band of street musicians. Following the arrest of the band leader and full of the love for her boyfriend, the young girl descends an uncertain path.
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Salt of this Sea (2008)
Annemarie Jacir
Palestine
105′
Soraya, 28, born and raised in Brooklyn, decides to return to live in Palestine, a country that her family was exiled from in 1948. On arriving in Ramallah, Soraya tries to recover the money left in an account by her grandparents but meets with refusal from the bank. Her path then crosses that of Emad, a young Palestinian whose ambition, unlike hers, is to leave the country for good. To escape the constraints linked to the situation in Palestine but also to earn their freedom, Soraya and Emad take things into their own hands, even if this means breaking the law. In this quest for life, we follow their trail through the History of a lost Palestine. Annemarie Jacir is telling not only or simply the story of a woman that comes to visit a region where her grandparents lived («here!»), no, the palestinian filmmaker is taking us as viewers deep into that, what facts and figures could never describe. It is this strong atmosphere, she has been creating, that touches us, it's the images of a well known situation, but again, not only the images in the photografic sense, she reaches in the way she's telling this little journey a level of inside view, that has in it's silent, feverish and constantly instabile way breathtaking and heartstopping moments. SALT OF THIS SEA is one of those movies, that give us an inner view of a situation that we all know somehow and where we run out of words to discribe. And this seems to me today much more important then to repeat what we know. Annemarie Jacirs movie is touching, because it goes under the surface even by simply showing surfaces, it goes under the surface by having a wonderful actress who is able to speak not only in words. And it goes there because she did put together so many little visible and invisible elements, without pointing them out: They are simply there, from the first moment, and they speak for themselves each of them and all together. The filmmaker created a kind of soft explosive that is not blessing but touching.
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The Last Friday (2012)
Yahya Alabdallah
Jordan
90′
Since gambling away everything he used to own, Yousef has lived alone in humble conditions, working as a taxi driver. In order to scrape together the money for an upcoming operation at the hospital, he turns to his boss for help and re-establishes contact with his son and now wealthy ex-wife after a long period of estrangement. Much is therefore in motion on the eve of the surgical procedure. A Knight of the Mournful Countenance in the city of Amman: Yousef deals with everyday adversities with silence and stoicism. He secretly steals his electricity from a neighbour. He reacts to getting a parking ticket with a shrug of his shoulders. He endures his employer’s degradations and double-dealings. When female customers talk of their annoyances regarding their fiancées or other men, he simply doesn’t listen. He’s also come to terms with being the only one around without a mobile phone. It is only the impending operation and his concern for his truanting son which leads him to take control of his life. This carefully photographed film casts a laconic and occasionally humorous gaze on the relationship between father and son, men and women, rich and poor and stagnation and change.
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Theeb (2014)
Naji Abu Nowar
Jordan
100′
In the Ottoman province of Hijaz during World War I, a young Bedouin boy experiences a greatly hastened coming of age as he embarks on a perilous desert journey to guide a British officer to his secret destination. In 1916, in the Hejaz Province of the Ottoman Empire, the young Bedouin Theeb (Jacir Eid) is learning from his elder brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh) the skills for everyday survival in their harsh environment. Immersed in a way of life that has endured for centuries, the brothers are unaware of the tremendous upheavals taking place at the fringes of their world: the First World War is raging in Europe, the Ottoman Empire is coming undone, the Great Arab Revolt is brewing, and the British officer T.E. Lawrence is plotting with the Arab Prince Faisal to establish an Arab kingdom. When British officer Edward (Jack Fox) and his Bedouin guide Marji (Marji Audeh) stumble wayward into their tribe's camp, the two brothers' destiny is forever changed. Abiding by the Bedouin custom that guests cannot be refused aid, Hussein is assigned to accompany the two strangers to their destination - with the uninvited Theeb, eager for adventure, following close behind. The ensuing journey, filled with danger and hardship, will result in Theeb's greatly hastened maturation in a culture where a man's honour and righteousness determines his inclusion or expulsion from the community.
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Une famille respectable (2012)
Massoud Bakhshi
Iran
90′
Arash is an Iranian academic who lives in the West. He returns to teach classes in Shiraz, where his mother lives, far from Tehran. Trapped in a whirlwind of family and financial intrigues, he plunges back into the difficult hours of his childhood at the beginning of the Iraq-Iran war in 1981. Following the death of his father and discovering what has become of his "respectable family", he is forced to make choices.
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