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MEIFF - ABU DHABI, Announces ELAH and Gulf Region Films

The Middle East International Film Festival - Abu Dhabi (MEIFF) today revealed its Closing Night Film, director Paul Haggis's IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, which is a story about a war veteran and his wife who are in search of their son, a soldier who recently returned from Iraq but has since gone missing. The Festival also named Nadine Labaki, director of CARAMEL, as the recipient of the Variety Middle East Filmmaker of the Year Award.

In support of Emirati filmmakers, the Abu Dhabi Media Company will sponsor a $100,000 cash prize, and the Festival announced the line-ups for its Middle East Spotlight, GCC Films, as well as selections in its Arab Women Directors category for the inaugural festival, taking place from October 14 -19, 2007 at the Emirates Palace.

These three sections collectively present a mix of 31 fiction, documentary and short films that were created by emerging and acclaimed filmmakers. The films are from 12 different countries from the region, diversely represented by Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq-Kurdistan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. This programming complements the previously announced Hayah Film Competition, designed for filmmakers throughout the Middle East, to promote creativity through short films made to be shown on the iPod.

"We are very excited to be receiving Nadine Labaki with her film CARAMEL for the Variety Filmmaker of the Year Award," said Nashwa Al-Ruwaini, Executive Director of the Festival. "It is excellent news for the region to see such outstanding talent.  I am also very pleased to say that MEIFF will screen the world premiere of the first U.A.E. fiction film, JUMAA AND THE SEA by Hani Al Shaibany. I hope this will set an example for local filmmakers and aspire them to produce great work to make the region proud." CARAMEL will screen under the Competition Films section in the Festival.

Festival Director Jon Fitzgerald said, "It is very rewarding to have an opportunity to present such a dynamic slate of films from the Middle East. While this is an international Festival, it was our goal to include a wide range of films from the Middle East, to support local filmmakers and to give the community an occasion to experience films from the region that they may not otherwise have an opportunity to see."

Renowned film critic and Festival Consultant Samir Farid adds, "I often answer the question of 'Why have a film festival in an Arab Persian Gulf country even though there is no real film production in this region?'. Well now for the first time in a single festival there are over 20 films from the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, most of which very recently produced." He continues, "I also like to point out that in regards to the question of women in the Gulf and the Arab world, for the first time in a single festival most of the films are by Arab women directors."

The complete list of films selected for the Middle East Spotlight, GCC Films and Arab Women Directors include:

Middle East Spotlight (10):

OPENING FILM - SHADOW OF SILENCE (Dhalal Al Samt) - Saudi Arabia, directed by Abdullah Al Muheisen. With Abdul Muhsen Al Nemr, Nayef Khalaf, Muhammad Al Mansur, Ghassan Masud, Farah Besiso, Mona Wasif, Rajaa Farahat, Ahmed Aqumi.  An authoritative regime employs the latest technologies to isolate and manipulate the elite and talented intellectuals in a remote center in the desert.

CROSSING THE DUST (Parinawa La Ghobar) - Kurdistan-Iraq, directed by Shawkat Amin Korki.  With Adil Abdolrahman, Hossein Hasan, Abdola Awayd, Aba Rash, Ayam Akra, Ahlam Najat, Rizgar Sidiq.
In the chaos of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, a 5-year-old boy named Saddam gets lost. He is found by two Kurdish resistance soldiers who argue about how to deal with their newfound responsibility.


THE DAWN (Al Boom) - Oman, directed by Khalid Al-Zadjali. With Saleh Zaal, Saud Al-Darmaki, Salem Bahwan, Isam Al-Zedjali, Zuha Qader, Zakaria Yahya, Talib Muhammad, Amina Abdulrasool, Muhammad Noor, Muhsen Al-Bulushi, Saeed Saleh
Set in modern-day Oman, this is the tale of a group of fisherman who encounter crises that they thought came with the job, but soon discover that they are being sabotaged.


DESERT HEAT - United Arab Emirates, short directed by John Hollingsworth. With Salim Ali Dahman, Abdullah Ali Dahman
A film about reinvention and adaptation, this tells the experience of two brothers from Yemen. Corporate executives in banking and public relations, they rap under the names Illmiyah and Arableak, forming Desert Heat. Bridging traditional and contemporary culture, Desert Heat uses Hip Hop "to bring the desert into the city."

FROM WITHIN: THEIR STORIES (Minhom Feehom) - Egypt, directed by Maggie Morgan.  With Yara Gobran, Farah Youssef, Sara el Sayed, Solafa Abdelghaffar, Salwa Mohamed Ali, Lana Mushtaq.
A collection of vignettes giving a glimpse into the most intimate parts of six Egyptian women's lives-how they overcome difficulties, develop and persevere.

THE GREATEST OF SINS (Akbar Al Kaba'ir) - Egypt, short  film directed by Youssef Hesham. With Mohamed Ismail, Salma Ghareeb, Hatem Al Tahawy, Shahria Mushir, Aiten Amin, Ingy Amin, Mona Hala.
A girl tells her two friends the legendary story of the controversial affair between peasant, Mohamed Hussein who had an affair with the Sheikh's wife.

HER MAN (Ragilha) - Egypt, short film directed by Aiten Amin. With Salma Gharib, Naglaa Younis, Aisha Salem, Medhat Fawzy
Adapted from a short story by Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif, this tale exposes a first wife's attempt to win back her husband from his second wife. The first and second wives spend one night in bed together. The next day the first wife convinces the husband that the love bite on the breast of his second wife was from making love with another man.

JUMAA AND THE SEA (Jumaa Wa Al Bahr) - United Arab Emirates, directed by Hani Al Shaibany.
Jumaa, a fisherman living on the coastline, has lost his beloved wife. His one hope is to fulfill her last wishes for their two children to complete their education. His older son refuses to continue his schooling and joins the army, leaving his father and brother behind. Jumaa searches high and low for his son. When he doesn't find him, he decides to focus on completing his wife's last wish by focusing all his efforts on his youngest son.

TWO WOMEN ON THE ROAD (Imra'atan ‘Ala Al Tareeq) - Morocco, directed by Farida Bourquia. With Mouna Fettou, Aïcha Mahmah
A journey to Northeren Morocco unites Amina, seeking to meet her husband who took a second wife, and Lalla, who was called upon to identify the corpse of her sin who drown attempting to escape to Europe.

WHEN THE PEOPLE SPOKE (‘Indama Takalam Al Sha'ab) - Kuwait, directed by Amer Al Zuhair.
250 years ago, the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula were inhabited by nomads, where women's main roles were to raise children, prepare food and take care of the house. Selected by the community, Sheikh Sabah established Kuwait as a model civil society as its first ruler. This feature documentary is a timely account on the development of women's political rights in modern Kuwait. After the Gulf War, women's role in society changed drastically, giving them freedom and independence. The film portrays the face-off between the moderates and the fundamentalists. The moderates strive for gender equality and modernization, while the latter believe that women should conform to religious and cultural ideals.


GCC Films (13):


THE BARRIER (Al Hagiz) - Bahrain, directed by Bassan El-Zawadi. With Fatima Abdulrahim, Ali Al-Gurair, Ahmed Awad Ali, Hamad Al-Meer, Yassir Al-Qurmuzi, Juma'an Al-Rowayai, Ameen Al-Sayiq.

Fatima, troubled by a vision of a mysterious person since her childhood, wants to face this psychological conflict. The story follows her search for answers, as she discovers a connection between the A'ali burial mounds and the haunting vision. It is at the burial mounds, and by chance, that Fatima and her ex-husband connect with the film's other characters. This is a look at a group of individuals who find themselves in a dark situation with a mysterious presence that tries to help them confront their problems.


THE CRUEL SEA (Bas Ya Bahr) 35th Anniversary of the First Film in the Gulf. - Kuwait, directed by Khalid El-Siddiq. With Mohammed Al-Mansour, Amal Bakr, Saad Al-Faraj, Hayat El-Fahad.

Kuwait's first feature film, this is the dramatic tale of Mussaid, the young son of a poor pearl diver. He is banned from going to sea, as his father was previously crippled by a shark and does not want his son to encounter the same danger.


THREADS BENEATH SANDS (Khuyoot Taht Al-Rimal) - Qatar, directed by Khalifa Al-Meraikhy

The Bedouins lived a tranquil, but hard, life in the desert. Their trade of weaving carpets is more than just an income-generator. Rather, it is deeply rooted in their culture and traditions. As cities spring up, the Bedouins leave the desert for a more promising future. With the development of textile factories, handmade carpets become an increasingly rare commodity.


Saudi Arabian Shorts


CHILD OF HEAVEN directed by Ali Hasan Mohammed Alameer. With Salma Nabeel, Sara Mohammed

Nine-year-old Dima's psychologically ill father killed her mother after suspecting her of having an affair. Soon after, he tortured Dima to death as well. Little does he know, Dima left behind her memories lined in a colorful autograph book, the sight of which invokes hope despite the pain and tragedy depicted on its pages.


DEMOCRACY (Dimocratiya) directed by Meshal El-Enzi. With Nawaf Al-Jabir; Waleed Al-Hamsi; Faris Al-Ghaidi; Bassam Al-Ghaidi; Faisal Al-Ghaidi; Mohamed Al-Enzi; Abdul Hamid Al-Enzi

How can a student in an Arab school explain the meaning of Democracy? He has to have a special way of expressing the democracy that he sees everyday and lives through every moment in his Arab homeland.


THE FABRICATRED CRIME (Al Garima Al Murakaba) directed by Tawfik El-Zaidi. With Thamr Alyosaf, Bader Magrashe.

This film addresses a sensitive issue in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia society which is "playing car" (drifting), which is connected with other crimes such as using and selling drugs, car theft and the kidnapping of children


FULL MOON NIGHT (Laylat Al Badr) directed by Mamdouth Salem Ba Ajajah

This is an observation of the joyful traditions in the Hejaz area of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during Ramadan, Eid and other occasions, and the effect of these traditions on the current generation of young boys and girls.


HARD WAY (Tareeqa Sa'aba) directed by Samir Ibrahim Arif. With Tariq Al Hussaini, Abdullah Al-Dafaas, Mai Al-Refaai

A man who has been in a fatal car accident that resulted in the death of his wife and daughter must live with the blame for this tragedy.


TARIK IBN ZIAD: THE KNIGHT OF EL-ANDALUS (Faris Al Andalus: Tarik Ibn Ziad) cartoon directed by Ayman Ibrahim Fuda.

Summary of the film: the film tells the story of the opening of the country's Muslims at the hands of Andalusia commander Tariq bin Ziyad, backed by leaders such as Musa bin Nusair, and how the goal of disseminating Muslim religion and justice in the country and raise injustice after people distress Spain Muslims.


Emirates Short Film Competition Winners


EL-GHOBNA directed by Saeed Salmeen Al-Murry. With Sougha Al-Beloushi, Naser Al Yaqobi, Hussain Mahmood, Hind Alkaabi, Eyman Husain

El-Ghobna investigates what lies between despair and pain: a light called hope.


AL HELLAH directed by Jassim Mohammed Al Salty. With Abdullah Butti Taresh, Fahad Abdullah Ahli, Sultan, Mohamed Saeed Al Salty, Abdul Rahman Al Zarouni, Abdullah Bin London, Suhail Khazal, Maryam

A grandfather recalls his glory days playing the game of Al-Hellah.



INEQUITY directed by Muneer M. Ibrahim.

A documentary that explores the wide abnormal usage of English in the everyday life of young Emiratis.

MIRAGE directed by Abdul Halim Ahmed Qaed.

The UAE has become a host to a variety of nationalities. The influx of diverse cultures and traditions has created a dramatic change in the way Emirati people live; values, traditions and way of life are being lost.


Arab Women Directors (8)


DANCE OF FIRE (Raqsat Al Nar) -  Tunisia, directed by Selma Baccar. With Souad Amidou (Habiba M'sika); Hejib Belhadhi (Chedly); Hedi Daoud (Mimoumi); Samia Rhayem (Aziza); Feodor Atkine (Pierre); Lara Chaouachi (Taja)

Still famous today in her native Tunisia, Habiba was an idolized Jewish singer of the 1920s. This biopic introduces her at the peak of stardom. Along with her lover, Mimoumi (Hedi Daoud), Habiba spends much time socializing with their circle of friends. Most popular with polite and conservative gentlemen, the singer would hold court to a group of these admirers at her home after every performance. Of these, Chedly (Hejib Belhadhi), a young poet, was one of the most devout. She leaves him and Mimoumi, however, to tour Europe and make her recording debut. When she finally returns to Tunisia, she is forever changed, greatly affected by her journey to the West. She has become a complicated artist with an inability to connect with her fans.


DREAMY VISIONS (Ru'a Halima) -  Syria, directed by Waha Al-Raheb. With Nadine Salama, Salim Sabri, Waha Al-Raheb, Rajaa Kotrash, Reem Ali, Bassel Khayat, Samer Al-Masri, Laila Sammour

Dreamy Visions isa film about Jamila Bouhired (Nadine Salama), a girl who is dominated by her repressive, old-school father. Naming his daughter after an Algerian freedom fighter, he cherishes the revolutionary times. Living with her middle-class family in a society plagued with contradictions and hypocrisy, Jamila's sexuality is the source of her tortured dreams. A childhood encounter with sexual abuse and fear of her father has left her cautious of the male species. Her despair is reinforced when admirers begin knocking on her door. But Jamila disappears from home one day. She leaves to become a guerrilla fighter during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon.


WOMEN'S RUSES (Keïd Ensa) - Morocco, directed by Farida Benlyazid. With Samira Akariou, Rachid El Ouali, Farma Bensaidane, Abderrahim Bayga, Amina Alaoui, Hammadi Amor, Mohamed Razine

Based on an Andalusian folktale, Women's Ruses tells the story of Lalla Aicha (Samira Akariou), an educated young woman who learned to read and write from her father. While the Sultan's son (Rachid El Ouali) is captivated by Lalla, he doesn't believe that women are as intelligent as men. She attempts to prove him wrong by sneaking into his home and shaving off his beard while he is sleeping. The sultan, however, is not easily convinced and decides to make her one of his wives. Deciding to teach her a lesson, he locks her in his cellar for three years. In this battle of the sexes, Lalla finally finds a way to outwit him.


LAYLA, THE BEDOUIN (Layla Al Badawiya) Centennial of Egyptian Cinema - Egypt, directed by Bahega Hafez. With Bahiga Hafez, Hussein Riad, Zaki Rustom, Abbas Faris

Arguments between Sheikh Lakiz and his brother culminate in Lakiz leaving his desert lands and emigration to a neighboring country. His daughter Layla, renowned for her unique beauty, is in love with her cousin Al-Boraq. He follows her family in order to propose. However, Ziad, who sees Al-Boraq as a rival, and Amr, who is envious of Al-Boraq's victories in horseback riding races, join forces and kidnap the captivating Layla. She is taken to the King of Persia's harem, where she is tortured and sexually exploited until her tribesman come to her rescue.


Palestinian Women Directors


AFTER THE LAST SKY (Ba'ad Al Samaa' Al Akhira) directed by Alia Arasoughly.

Through the story of Kfir Bir'im, a destroyed Palestinian village, we encounter Nahida and two other women from the kibbutz built on its land. The trio's moving story focuses on a struggle for the return of the villagers to their homeland, a central issue in the Palestinian experience.


GOING FOR A RIDE? (Mashyeen?) directed by Nahed Awwad.

Going for a Ride is inspired by Palestinian artist Vera Tamari's installation of cars crushed by the Israeli Defense Force during invasions of Ramallah in 2002. She uses the destroyed cars as a metaphor for the freedom these cars once represented.


SUMMER OF '85 (Seif '85) - Palestine/Switzerland, directed by Rowan Al Faqih.

A short experimental film that attempts to recreate happy memories of a childhood spent at a grandmother's house in Ramallah with a cousin from America. The start of the first intifadah marks their newfound awareness of politics and each other's differences.


THE WAY BACK HOME - directed by Ghada Terawi.

The Way Back Home is a personal attempt to bridge the Palestinian dream of a homeland with their modern-day reality. It tells the story of Abu Nizar, who still recalls the finest details of home even after more than fifty years in Moroccan exile; Husni, an artist in permanent search for an affinity with the homeland; Munira, the actress who refuses to be marginalized; and Arafat, who maintains a romantic image of his country.


The Middle East International Film Festival - Abu Dhabi (MEIFF) is a cultural event dedicated to bringing a diverse slate of international films and programs to the community and introducing filmmakers from around the world to the resources of the region. Presented by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), MEIFF is committed to nurturing relationships and providing opportunities to those looking to invest in the future of film. In this regard, the Festival will launch the inaugural Film Financing Circle (FFC), which will become a significant annual conference on the subject of international co-productions.  MEIFF debuts October 14-19, 2007 and FFC launches October 15-17, 2007. Abu Dhabi is a city unprecedented in its ability to develop and grow in response to the global marketplace.


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