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Love, Laughs and Lebanese Classics at the Arab Film Festival

The 13th annual Arab Film Festival Australia returns in 2016 with a fusion of contemporary and traditional works in Arab cinema from Australia, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Presenting seven features and one short film, the festival kicks off at Riverside Theatres on 21 July.

Arab Film Festival Australia proudly represents diversity in arts and culture. This year’s line-up offers insight into how religion can impact love and relationships, as well as the struggles and sometimes humorous side of customs meeting modernisation. From comedy to classic road trip, limited love to a deeper exploration of culture, Arab Film Festival Australia program presents inspiring and thought provoking stories.

“I’m most excited about diverse interpretations and methods of storytelling at this year’s festival”, says Co-Festival Director, Fadia Abboud. “We are proud to showcase stories from both old and new worlds where audiences can see Arab culture distilled on film – some very familiar communities and others yet to be discovered.”

Co Festival Director, Mouna Zaylah adds, “Once again you can come to the Festival and enjoy the company of Arab Australian communities taking in stories from our own world, from our voices and on our terms. It’s a wonderful kick-off in Sydney with the opening party always a celebration of who we are and the strong emergence of our film culture.”

A screening of Halal Love will launch the festival at the opening night party at Riverside Theatres. Halal Love is a warming and witty film capturing the humour in faith and relationships. The story cleverly intertwines three different love stories, as devout Lebanese Muslims try to pursue love and happiness without breaking religious rule.

Joining the festival on opening night will be the Director of Halal Love, Assad Fouladkar. Opening night ticket holders go in the running to win a trip for two to Abu Dabi, and are treated to a free Lebanese Knafeh from the spunky Bearded Bakers; Sydney’s hottest food truck.

Other films featuring at this year’s festival include highly anticipated Bennesbeh Labokra, Chou?. Directed by Ziad Rahbani, the theatre classic is comprised of original footage once thought lost from 1978 and restored for today’s screen. The cult-comedy features scores loved throughout every house in Lebanon and is sure to be a sell-out. 

Directed by Halkawt Mustafa, El Clasico is another traditional love story with a modern twist. A Kurdish man of small stature believes presenting soccer player Christian Renaldo with a pair of handmade shoes will earn him respect and the blessings from the father of his would be bride. Filled with uniquely abstract characters, El Clasico is a road movie of self-discovery and adventure, showing how love and hope transcend boundaries and boarders.

Directed by Hala Khalil, the film Nawara is an exploration of class war and social structures in Egypt. The film follows Nawara, who crosses the divide between the lower class and upper in her daily life as a housekeeper, juxtaposing the opulence of her employers with the realities of her own home life.

Waiting for the Fall is the first time a feature drama from Syria has screened in Australia. The gripping film explores how members of a small, war-torn town in Syria endeavour to maintain normality. Directed by Joud Saeed, the story follows the township’s interest in a local women’s volleyball final, while rumours of an impending air strike rage and a local photographer is taken prisoner by rebels. 

Roshmia, directed by Salim Abu Jabal is both heart-warming and wrenching as elderly couple Yousef and Amna fight the Israeli authorities to keep the ramshackle shack that’s been their home since 1965. Both films depict a more serious side of life in war-torn nations, but highlight the importance of human connection and spirit when everything else is out of one’s control.

Home, a short film from Australian Director Shahin Alanezi, follows the story of an Iraqi refugee who struggles with accepting her son embracing Australian culture over her own traditions.

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